Happiness gap is widening ‘significantly’: Global report

Jessica Hartogs, Special to
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The world would be a happier place if we were more equal, according to this year's World Happiness Report Update.

For the first time since its publication in 2012, the World Happiness Report has focused on the measurement and consequences of inequality in the distribution of well-being among countries and regions.

In previous years, the editors argued that happiness provides a better indicator of human welfare than income, poverty, education, health and good government measured separately.

However, this year they have recalculated their findings to show that the inequality of well-being provides a broader measure of inequality, according to this year's report released Wednesday by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN),

Two regions—the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean— have more unequally distributed happiness than the world as a whole.

"There's a greater inequality in all aspects of life in those regions," John Helliwell, an economist and one of the editors of the report, told CNBC on Wednesday.

Most happy and least happy

Out of its 156 rated countries, the report ranks Denmark - up from number 3 last year - as the world's happiest country.

"You don't expect big changes unless something is really happening. The big gainers and losers are roughly the same," Helliwell told CNBC.

The other countries featured in the 10 ten are:







•New Zealand



The world's unhappiest country is the Central African nation of Burundi, where a civil war has caused the death of hundreds of people and generated thousands of refugees.

Just this week, the European Union suspended direct financial support for Burundi after concluding that the country's authorities had not done enough to find a political solution to the turmoil that has so far cost more than 400 lives, reported the Guardian.

The other countries ranked at the bottom of the index are: Madagascar, Tanzania, Liberia, Guinea, Rwanda,Benin, Afghanistan, Togo, Syria – most of which have experienced political turmoil in the last decade.

Happiness factors

Scandinavians lead the way in world happiness

The six factors measured in the report were gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations).

The United States came in at number 13, the United Kingdom at 23, France at 32, and Italy at 50.

Since the report was first published, four countries featured in it - Bhutan, Ecuador, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela - have appointed Ministers of Happiness. Despite this, the UAE slipped down the rankings from 20th to 28th place.

The UN's International World Happiness Day will be celebrated on March 20.

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