UN World Happiness Report 2013: You should go to Denmark
The first World Happiness Report, commissioned for the UN Conference on Happiness, held in April 2012, drew international attention as a landmark first survey of the state of global happiness. The World Happiness Report 2013 goes further. It delves in more detail into the analysis of the global happiness data, examining trends over time and breaking down each country’s score into its component parts, so that citizens and policy makers can understand their country’s ranking.
The 156 page report, published by the Earth Institute at Columbia University and edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs, found that the happiest countries are all in Northern Europe – Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden – with an average life evaluation score of 7.48 on a 0 -10 scale. At the other end of the spectrum, the African nations Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Benin, and Togo, had an average life evaluation score of 2.94. The life evaluation score takes a range of factors into account including income (measured by log of GDP per capita), healthy life expectancy at birth, freedom to make life choices, social support, corruption and generosity.
The Report shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. Well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.
This is not the first time the Danes have been awarded this prestigious title. Back in 1973, the European Commission decided to set up a ‘Eurobarometer’ to find out about issues affecting its citizens. Since then member states have been surveyed about well-being and happiness. Amazingly Denmark has topped the table every year since 1973.
Professor of Economics Christian Bjørnskov from Aarhus Business School knows all about happiness, he even wrote his PhD on the subject. “The happiness surveys normally ask people to evaluate their lives. Research show what makes the Danes so happy is that they are very trusting of other people they don’t know. Trust helps make people happy. Also just as importantly, Danes feel empowered to be able to change something in their life if they don’t like it,” he says.
“The great thing about Danish society is that it doesn’t judge other people’s lives. It allows them to choose the kind of life they want to live, which is sometimes not always possible in other countries, so this helps add to the overall satisfaction of people living here,” he adds.
It also seems the Danes attitude to money is refreshing different from other countries. “Money is not as important in the social life here, as for example Britain and America. We probably spend our money differently here. We don’t buy big houses or big cars, we like to spend our money on socialising with others,” concludes the Professor.