World’s happiest place – Norway tops, Malaysia 42nd, Central Africa the worst

 |Mar 23, 2017
Norwegians are ranked the happiest people in the world.

Forget Disneyland.

If you want to visit the happiest place on earth, head to Norway.

Norwegians rate their lives the best and have a happiness score of 7.537 on average, while the unhappiest country, the Central African Republic, scored 2.693.

Scandinavian countries dominated the top ten lists with Denmark placed second.

This is followed by Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Australia with Sweden placed at the tenth spot.

In Asia, Singapore appears to be less cheerful today and falls from 22nd place to 26th, Thailand (32nd), Taiwan (33rd), Malaysia (42nd) and Japan (51st).

Malaysians are happier today than they were a year ago, with a five-place jump from last year’s report.

The United States’ rank on the happiness scale falls to the 14th place and as Americans generally feel worse off today than they did a decade ago.

The World Happiness Report, which started in 2012, is produced by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and relies on data gathered by the Gallup World Poll.

The poll measures each nation’s “subjective well-being” by asking their citizens to rate their current life satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10; from the worst to the best possible life.

Researchers use six measures to try to understand the results: gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, life expectancy, support from relatives or friends, charitable giving, freedom to make life choices, and perceived levels of government and corporate corruption.

The cultural difference varies in response style in Asia where the average life evaluation may fall below those predicted by the survey’s model.

Bhutanese children.

Since 1971, Bhutan has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress.

In its place, His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the term Gross National Happiness (GNH).

This concept measures prosperity by gauging its citizens’ happiness levels, not the GDP.

This new approach measures prosperity through formal principles of GNH, the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and its natural environment.

A ‘good life’ and wellbeing of the Bhutanese people is more important than economic growth.

For the country which invented the GNH, Bhutan has never performed well on the World Happiness Report.

Bhutan’s relatively low GDP per capita can’t be compared with the Scandinavian countries that dominate the top 10.

In countries like Qatar and the UAE, non-citizens makeup over 80% of the country’s population and make a huge difference in the calculation of happiness scores as it is not restricted to the citizens of a country.

The countries are ranked using three-year averages of data collected with the latest report, in its fifth edition, covering 2014-2016.

SDSN’s director Professor Jeffrey Sachs predicted that President Donald Trump’s policies are likely to make things worse for the United States.

Based on World Happiness Report, the ranking seems to be an indicator that should alert governments of the happiness of their citizens.

Employers should take heed as a happy worker is a productive worker.

Sachs added that the report’s aim is to provide another tool for governments, business and civil society to help their countries find a better way to well-being.

“Happy countries are the ones with a healthy balance of prosperity, as conventionally measured, social capital, meaning a high degree of trust in a society, low inequality and confidence in the government,” he said.

According to the report, the top four happiest countries ranked highly on caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

In 2016, Hollywood released a biographical drama film called “The Pursuit of Happyness”. It dealt with a single father, Chris Gardner’s one-year struggle as a homeless salesman.

The unusual spelling of the movie’s title is from Gardner’s son’s day care’s mural which incorrectly spells “happiness” as “happyness”.

Perhaps this is what the nations of the world want to correct too.

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Doris Lim is a Malaysia Outlook contributor with a keen eye for details developed form her background in architecture and design. Her affable personality and passion to celebrate life is captured in her stories of the community. Doris’ love for all things beautiful and quirky is tempered by her love for writing, photography, food, art and travel.