It’s international happiness day today, and there are some baffling national winners and losers

March 20, 2016

     By Duncan Green     

It’s international happiness day today, so what better way to ruin my Sunday morning than blogging about it? Theinternational day of happiness World Happiness Report has a short update to mark the day. Happiness may sound a slightly woolly concept, but actually the report is based on rigorous assessments by Gallup of life satisfaction indicators (see here for more). Some highlights:

  1. Denmark wins (again) – how annoying is that? Enough to make any non-Dane grumpy.
  2. Interesting focus on inequality in this year’s report:

‘The main innovation in the World Happiness Report Update 2016 is our focus on inequality. We have previously argued that happiness, as measured by life evaluations, provides a broader indicator of human welfare than do measures of income, poverty, health, education, and good government viewed separately. We now make a parallel suggestion for measuring and addressing inequality. Thus we argue that inequality of well-being provides a better measure of the distribution of welfare than is provided by income and wealth, which have thus far held centre stage when the levels and trends of inequality are being considered.

happiness v researchersFirst we show that there is a wide variation among countries and regions in their inequality of well-being, and in the extent to which these inequalities changed from 2005-2011 to 2012-2015. In the world as a whole, in eight of the 10 global regions, and in more than half of the countries surveyed there was a significant increase in the inequality of happiness. By contrast, no global region, and fewer than one in 10 countries, showed significant reductions in happiness inequality over that period.

Second, the chapter shows that people do care about the happiness of others, and how it is distributed. Beyond the six factors already discussed, new research suggests that people are significantly happier living in societies where there is less inequality of happiness.’

  1. biggest happiness improversThe list of countries that have seen most improvement/deterioration in life satisfaction over the last decade begs an awful lot of questions – can anyone explain why Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Moldova and Latvia are the fastest improvers?

The countries with the most significant losses of wellbeing are more predictable, but even here there are some surprises. What are India, Botswana and Rwanda doing in the bottom dozen, alongside the more predictable Syria, Egypt, Yemen etc?

biggest happiness losers

March 20, 2016
Duncan Green