Just Explain It: Who Are The Happiest People In The World?


Are you happy?
 
The pursuit of happiness was enshrined as a right in the Declaration of Independence over 200 years ago, but now researchers and policy makers are looking closely at what nations are the happiest, and why.
 
Last year, the United Nations passed a resolution declaring March 20, 2013 the first International Day of Happiness. The resolution recognized "happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives."
 
So, why is happiness so important? How is happiness measured? And what countries are the happiest?
 
That's what we set to find out, on today's “Just Explain It.”
 
The United Nations believes happiness can be the result of their peacekeeping, anti-poverty, human rights and sustainability  duties. When International Happiness Day was announced, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "Social, economic, and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.”
 
Research shows that people who are physically healthy, have strong social and communal ties, and have meaningful goals tend to be happier and live longer. Money only makes an impact on happiness to the point of covering necessities. Once those needs are met, research doesn’t show a correlation between more money and more happiness. Similarly, governments are also finding other ways to define national happiness and success beyond wealth and gross domestic product.
 
In 1972, the small Himalayan nation of Bhutan rejected GDP as a measure of its well-being and adopted gross national happiness or GNH. In Bhutan, GNH consists of shared economic prosperity, environmental and cultural preservation, and good governance. It sounds hard to measure, but it seems to be working pretty well for them. In the last 20 years Bhutan has doubled its life expectancy.
 
More recently in 2009 former French President Nicolas Sarkozy created a commission to measure the nation’s prosperity by looking at issues like the environment and quality of life. Meanwhile, in 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron began measuring the nation’s “life-satisfaction” through surveys, and he directed local governments to foster well-being in an effort to improve it.  
 
Many studies use data beyond wealth to calculate happiness and well-being, but they don't provide a definite answer as to who are the happiest people in the world.
 
The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index ranked 142 countries by surveys and empirical data across eight areas: Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Governance, Education, Health, Safety & Security, Personal Freedom and Social Capital. Wealthy northern European nations Norway, Sweden and Denmark topped the list.
 
The United States ranked high, but came in 12th. It was the first time it wasn’t in the top ten. The two lowest ranking scores for the U.S. were in the Economy, and Safety & Security. But the biggest drops in the last two years of the Index for the U.S. were in Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Personal Freedom and Governance.
 
However, a Gallup survey published last year found different results. In their survey to find the most positive nation in the world, Gallup asked citizens in 148 countries if they experienced a lot of enjoyment the previous day. They also asked if respondents felt respected, well-rested, laughed and smiled a lot, and did or learned something interesting the day before the survey. Who were the most positive people? Citizens in Panama and Paraguay answered yes to all those questions 85% of the time. In fact, eight out of the top ten countries were in Latin America: El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Ecuador and Costa Rica. The other two countries in the top 10 were Thailand and the Philippines. Only 76% of U.S. respondents said yes to all of the questions, placing it in 35th place.
 
What might cause the different results? Gallup’s poll asked respondents more subjective questions about themselves, while the Legatum survey used both questionnaire and hard data. There could also be cultural differences as well: people in certain countries may be more or less likely to express happiness than others.
 
But then again, isn’t perceived happiness, still happiness?
 
What makes you happy? Why do you think U.S. isn’t the happiest country in the world? We would love to get your feedback in the comments section below, or on Twitter using #JustExplainIt.

Loading...
  • New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack
    New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack

    By Maria Golovnina ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's South Asia wing has claimed responsibility for hijacking a Pakistani naval ship and trying to use it to fire rockets at U.S. vessels in the Arabian Sea, in the first major assault by the newly created group. The SITE monitoring service quoted its spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, as saying a group of militants had succeeded in seizing control of the Pakistani frigate PNS Zulfiqar and tried to use it to attack nearby U.S. vessels. ...

  • Divided, Scots prepare to vote on fate of the United Kingdom
    Divided, Scots prepare to vote on fate of the United Kingdom

    By Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Just hours before Scotland's independence referendum, the fate of the United Kingdom rests on hundreds of thousands of wavering Scottish voters, as opinion polls showed supporters of the 307-year union just a whisker ahead of secessionists. In an intense final day of campaigning on Wednesday, leaders of both sides beseeched Scots to seize the reins of history in a vote that has divided families, friends and lovers but also electrified this country of 5.3 million. ...

  • Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel
    Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel

    HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he's building in the global gambling capital of Macau.

  • Sony heads for deeper loss as it shrinks struggling smartphone business
    Sony heads for deeper loss as it shrinks struggling smartphone business

    By Sophie Knight and Reiji Murai TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp cut its earnings outlook for the sixth time on Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai's watch on Tuesday as it announced a massive impairment change on its smartphone unit, which it has failed to grow despite a rapidly expanding market. Hirai said mobile would remain one of the three core divisions of its electronics business, even though its shrinking footprint and ballooning losses now threaten the prospects of that flagship business scoring a profit this year. ...

  • Fan heckling Harper in Atlanta ejected by umpire
    Fan heckling Harper in Atlanta ejected by umpire

    Umpire Tim Welke heard a foul-mouthed fan heckling Bryce Harper and decided it was time for the man to go.

  • Tiny Hamster Takes On Kobayashi in 'Hot Dog' Eating Contest
    Tiny Hamster Takes On Kobayashi in 'Hot Dog' Eating Contest

    Takeru Kobayashi has destroyed heaping amounts of food and numerous challengers over the years as a competitive eater. He once ate 110 hot dogs in 10 minutes. He smashed a world record when he ate 97 hamburgers in 94 seconds. The burgers were slider-sized, but still, it's impressive. Even though it has been a few years since he has participated in competitive eating's largest event, Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest, he's still getting his name out there in the gustatory world. His newest challenger is the hungriest — and tiniest — yet.

  • Vigilante on Motorcycle Throws Trash Back in Litterbugs' Face
    Vigilante on Motorcycle Throws Trash Back in Litterbugs' Face

    Litter is an eyesore that most people would rather live without. It's especially galling to see someone in broad daylight toss a piece of trash on the ground. Apparently, this occurrence happens often enough in Russia that one GoPro-toting citizen decided to become a vigilante, of sorts. In a video shot using her helmet cam, a woman on a motorcycle rides around city streets sticking it to litterbugs — literally. She spots one person throwing a bit of trash out a car window. The woman picks up the trash, swiftly catches up with the person, and delivers the item back, which is usually greeted with fury from the driver. The video is called, naturally, "Elusive Girl on a Motorcycle Against Debris."

  • Jaguar XKE stolen in NY in 1968 recovered en route to Netherlands

    (Reuters) - U.S. authorities have recovered a Jaguar XKE stolen 46 years ago outside a New York City apartment after finding it on a ship to the Netherlands and tracking down the 82-year-old original owner of the British luxury car, officials said on Wednesday. A man who shipped the car from the Los Angeles and Long Beach seaport complex submitted paperwork to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in June, and an analyst who checked out the vehicle saw it had been reported stolen, said California Highway Patrol investigator Mike Maleta. ...

Follow Yahoo! News