This year Finland takes the top spot as the world’s happiest country as measured by surveys undertaken by Gallup from 2015-2017. Rounding out the rest of the top ten in order of overall happiness are:
- New Zealand
All the top countries tend to have high values for all six of the key variables that have been found to support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. Among the top countries, differences are small enough that that year-to-year changes in the rankings are to be expected.
Why has the USA dropped in the list of World’s Happiest Countries?
The U.S. ranked 18th, dropping down four spots from last year. In addition, Finland’s immigrants are also the happiest immigrant population in the world, based on the available data from 117 countries. So why isn’t it topping the world’s happiest country list?
“Governments are increasingly using indicators of happiness to inform their policy-making decisions,” notes co-editor Jeffrey D. Sachs. “U.S. policymakers should take note. The U.S. happiness ranking is falling, in part because of the ongoing epidemics of obesity, substance abuse, and untreated depression.”
Rural-urban migration and other factors
The report studies rural-urban migration as well, principally through the recent Chinese experience, which has been called the greatest mass migration in history. That migration shows some of the same convergence characteristics of the international experience, with the happiness of city-bound migrants moving towards, but still falling below urban averages.
The importance of social factors in the happiness of all populations, whether migrant or not, is emphasized, where the happiness bulge in Latin America is found to depend on the greater warmth of family and other social relationships there, and to the greater importance that people there attach to these relationships.
Are immigrants happy?
The World Happiness Report 2018, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, and 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants, was released at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican.
This report also considers the happiness of immigrants. The report includes four chapters on migration, both internal (within-country) and international (cross-country), investigating the happiness of migrants, their families left behind, and others living in the cities and countries receiving migrants.
“The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born,” said co-editor Professor John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia. All of the top ten countries for overall happiness 2015-2017 are in the top 11 countries for immigrant happiness based on surveys covering 2005-2015. “Although immigrants come from countries with very different levels of happiness, their reported life evaluations converge towards those of other residents in their new countries,” said Helliwell. “Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose,” though the adjustment of happiness is not complete, as migrants still reflect in part the happiness of their birth country.
The report deciding the world’s happiest country, produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) with the support of the Ernesto Illy Foundation, is edited by Professor John F. Helliwell of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Professor Richard Layard, co-director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Sachs, director of SDSN.