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148 countries were ranked in all.
The top 12 were:
Other interesting results:
Of the bottom 20 countries, 17 are in Africa
Lowest rated “western” country: Bulgaria, no. 139
The conference was convened by Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley of Bhutan – unsurprisingly, since Bhutan has been basing its economy on principles of happiness and well-being for several decades. In addressing the conference, Prime Minister Thinley contended that only the adoption of Gross National Happiness as a replacement for Gross National Product can divert humankind from its path of self-destruction.
The term Gross National Happiness (GNH) was first used in 1972 by Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Calculating GNH is done by measuring a population’s well-being and happiness through a variety of methods – including surveys using questions such as “Taking all things together, how happy would you say you are?”
To learn more, check out this fun and remarkably complete explanation of GNH and its evolution by “The Simple Show.”
While the methods used to calculate GNH can vary, some results don’t. It is very clear that, although wealthier western countries tend to end up at the top of the list, it takes more than just material wealth to make people happy – for example, in the current report Panama finished several places above Japan. Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are together more important than income in the final results. And for individuals, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are essential.
As governments start to realize that economic prosperity does not necessarily equate with personal happiness, there is more and more international discussion about what is called the “paradox of happiness” – and how governments can use policies to increase their population’s well-being.
The report actually included practical suggestions of how governments can promote happiness: by helping people meet their basic needs, reinforcing social systems, implementing active labour policies, improving mental health services, promoting compassion, altruism and honesty, and helping the public resist hyper-commercialism.
And the country rankings? Denmark, Finland, Norway, The Netherlands and Canada were the top five (the US came in at #11), while Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Benin and Togo bottomed out the list.
The report was published by the Earth Institute and co-edited by the institute’s director, Jeffrey Sachs. Download the full document here.