Thursday, March 17, 2016

World Happiness Report

The World Happiness Report 2016 Update is published. The editors argue that happiness provides a better indicator of human welfare than income, poverty, education, health and good government measured separately. Roughly 3,000 respondents in more than 150 countries were asked to evaluate their lives on a ladder where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 represents the best. For the world as a whole, the distribution is very normally distributed about the median answer of 5, with a population-weighted mean of 5.4. It's a simple concept of being higher or lower on a happiness ladder but it needs to be simple to measure people of so many different nationalities and mindsets.

I'm from the United States which is ranked #13 with a score of 7.104. I currently live at my first foreign service post in Sweden which ranks a little higher (#10/7.291). Supposedly I improved my happiness environment by moving to one of the top 10 countries but it wasn't a huge jump in position. It doesn't feel like a drastic change but I do think people here seem a little happier. It also depends a bit on the seasons here. The top 10 is dominated by Nordic countries despite their cold and dark winters. Maybe the survey is taken in the summer when everyone is enjoying the long days filled with sunshine and pleasant weather.

Top 10

1. Denmark (7.526)
2. Switzerland (7.509)
3. Iceland (7.501)
4. Norway (7.498)
5. Finland (7.413)
6. Canada (7.404)
7. Netherlands (7.339)
8. New Zealand (7.334)
9. Australia (7.313)
10. Sweden (7.291)

I'm moving to Venezuela this year which is ranked #44 with a score of 6.084. They're still above the median score so they're relatively happy compared to the rest of the world. All of the bad news I see about their struggling economy hasn't pulled their happiness down below the median yet. However, these reports do show Venezuela is losing happiness. 2015 they were #23 with 6.810 and 2013 had them at #20 with 7.039. The trend doesn't look good but they do remain well above the bottom 10 countries.

Bottom 10

148. Madagascar (3.695)
149. Tanzania (3.666)
150. Liberia (3.622)
151. Guinea (3.607)
152. Rwanda (3.515)
153. Benin (3.484)
154. Afghanistan (3.360)
155. Togo (3.303)
156. Syria (3.069)
157. Burundi (2.905)

The overall list may be something to consider for future assignment bidding if being around happier people makes a difference in my own quality of life and happiness. I'll test that this year by moving a little further down the list to Venezuela. I'll try to keep some of that Swedish happiness with me as I go. :-)

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