The pursuit of happiness should be a fundamental human right. Cultivated through a variety of streams, both personal and public, living in a state of happiness is a necessity that must be nurtured across the world.
And contrary to what some people might think, happiness can be measured. While governments and economic think tanks go about measuring the material success of a nation based on its GDP or the purchasing power parity of a currency, they are collecting only a thin measure of what life is actually like in the country. On the other hand, measuring happiness brings to bear questions of attitude, emotional health, physical health, and the orientation the citizens towards their government. All in all, it offers a far more thorough reflection on the state of things for people living across economic fault lines.
The State of Happiness in 2018
The best gauge for happiness comes from the World Happiness Report, which was recently published for the year 2018. For the uninitiated, the Report is the cumulative results of a survey that ranks 156 countries on the happiness level of its citizens. Critical variables looked at in the report include income, life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity within the society.
The report also extends into the happiness level of immigrants in 117 countries, which reflects the main focus of this year’s report: coming to a better understanding of migration patterns, and specifically, how migration impacts happiness levels.
What is the happiest country in the world?
According to the Report, the happiest people in the world live in Finland. It might seem counterintuitive if you consider the weather, relatively isolated location of the country, and its economic status. However, when you look at the key variables measured in the Report, it is clear that Finland’s social-democratic government is meeting the needs of its citizens (and then some).
For those who have tracked Happiness Reports from previous years, seeing another Scandinavian country top the list is probably expected. Denmark and Norway were on top in recent years, with Switzerland the only country to break what would otherwise have been a Scandinavian sweep over the past four years.
Are there any surprises?
There are some surprise winners and losers in the happiness stakes. The poor citizens of Venezuela dropped 2.2 points in the 10-point scale, reflecting significant political turmoil in the country. On the brighter side of things, the citizens of Togo are smiling more than ever! The West African nation jumped 17 places from its 2015 ranking.
Are migrants happy?
The most striking takeaway from the Happiness Report pertains to the relative happiness of a countries immigrant population. As it turns out, migrants are happiest in the happiest countries. Finland tops the charts regarding immigrant happiness, and the top ten countries from the general survey are at the top of the charts in terms of immigrant happiness levels.
The implications of the research are clear – namely, that:
1. The happiness of immigrants is dependent on the quality of life in the places they arrive.
2. Quality of life has more to do with a balanced set of social support systems and less to do with GDP and overall wealth of the country.
Taken together, the World Happiness Report for 2018 pulls insightful data from stable and migrant populations across the world and underscores the importance of social welfare in determining happiness. The more we open up to each other and engage in meaningful relationships, the more fruitful our lives will be.