World happiness report

Following on from telling you about what I think are just a few of the key influences to happiness, I thought I’d share some more of the radio programme experience I had recently. In the second week of the programme the presenter wanted to talk about The World Happiness Report which is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The World Happiness Report 2018, ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. It often has a particular view point depending on what’s topical at the time and this year the main focus was on migration within and between countries.

There are six key variables that have been found to support well-being and these are: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. As you would expect the top ranking countries score highly in all of these and amongst the highest scoring countries the differences are small and the ranking between them changes just a little each year.

This year however, there was a new top ranking country – Finland! So now it’s up there with Denmark, Norway and Switzerland who have held that top ranking for the last four years and the highest ten positions have been held by the same ten countries for the last two years although with a bit of jostling for position. The UK isn’t in the top ten currently by the way, and I don’t know if I’m surprised by that but I’m definitely disappointed.

As a Global University, Sheffield is fortunate in attracting students from all over the world and it would be interesting to know how this report stacks up in terms of the real life experience of students and their perception of where the UK would and should fit.

To put a more positive spin on the ranking of the UK though, it’s encouraging to consider that part of the analysis within the report is looking at the changes in terms of gains and losses over time. An example of a really positive change is that Togo moved up seventeen places in the rankings between 2015 and this year’s report, so there’s definitely scope for a move in the right direction.

One of the things that struck me when I was reading the report was the link it had to the previous week’s radio story – you remember the one about new team signs up footballer who said he had his “happy moments”, even though he was paid an astonishing amount of money. Although income is a key variable in this report, it relates to having enough of an income to obtain the basic necessities of life, such as a home, food, clothing and health care. There is nothing in this report that points to abundant wealth being a factor at all.

Happiness can and does change. There are many factors that influence this but it is often linked to the quality of the society that we live in and the really brilliant thing about that is that we can all be a part of improving it. Interestingly, Finland ranked the highest in both happiness of the general population and happiness of the immigrant population.

Overall then, the countries with the happiest populations are not necessarily the wealthiest countries but the ones where there are is a healthy balance of institutional and social supports which contribute positively to the lives of all sections of a society.

I think I need to add Finland to my bucket list for sure!

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