Decoding the World Happiness Report: How To Be Happy

The World Happiness Report for 2017 was just published and identified Norway as the happiest country in the world.  The top 4 countries (Norway, Denmark, Iceland & Switzerland) all share the same common factors that influence high levels of happiness:

Caring, Freedom, Generosity, Honesty, Health, Income & Good Governance

Other factors that influence happiness as demonstrated in the top 10 happy countries include;

Healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity & trust

Happiness depends on both personal and social factors to influence life satisfaction.  The report measured income, education, employment, partnership, physical health & mental health.  Risk factors identified were: low socioeconomic status, lack of education, unemployment, unfulfilling partnerships, physical illness and mental illness (specifically, anxiety and depression).

Canada moved from #5 in 2015 to #7 this year and the United States increased from #15 in 2015 to #14 this year.  Why are Canada & the US ranked lower when we are two of the most prosperous nations?  Although data was not shown for Canada, the US was ranked highest in poverty and mental illness (despite being one of the wealthiest nations) and low in trust and social support.  This significantly contributes to lower levels of happiness.  This proves the saying that ‘money can’t buy health or happiness,’ particularly when its distribution is so inequitable and imbalanced.

Social factors are key determinants to happiness and emotional health affects happiness more than any other factor, including physical health (although both are extremely influential).

So, how to create more happiness for everyone? We need to increase social support.  When people feel cared for, free, surrounded by generous, honest friends and government, have good health (physical and mental), good incomes, opportunity and support, happiness can be experienced.  Yes, it is something that we can create.  However, it is easier to create in conditions that allow for its cultivation.

Want to be happier? Be kind, caring, trusting & trustworthy, generous, sincere, enjoy the freedom that you have, appreciate the health that you have (even when it’s not all good), cultivate healthy, nurturing and mutually beneficial relationships and social connections with supportive others, engage in your self-care and passions.  Engage with your community.  Get to know your neighbours!  Be kind, caring and generous to those who need it and advocate on their behalf for increased social equity, justice and support.


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