The Situationist

Happiness Rankings by Country

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 20, 2008

Andrew Cohen of the Ottawa Citizen has a new piece that discusses a 2006 study by social psychologist Adrian White of the University of Leicester. The study, entitled “A Global Projection of Well Being: A Challenge to Positive Psychology?,” employed more than 100 studies to rank countries by their citizens’ level of happiness.

Congrats to our readers from Denmark, the happiest nation according to White’s study.

Below we excerpt portions of Cohen’s article.

* * *

When they say that the Danes are the happiest people on earth – as a widely publicized study by the University of Leicester found in 2006 – the Garden of Mythology comes to mind. After all, an airport garden, in a country that is dreary for much of the year, is fundamentally human. When the sun finally comes out, people have a heightened sense of well-being.

The study was done by Adrian White, a social psychologist. Using a battery of statistics and a survey of attitudes among 80,000 people around the globe, he created “a world map of happiness.” Of 178 countries, he found Denmark the happiest.

An odd choice, you might think, for a people known for herring and Hamlet. Or for a people described as brooding, remote and dour.

No matter. Professor White concludes that happiness is about being healthy, wealthy and wise. While much of his study is subjective, he measures levels of GDP, health and education. He also finds that countries of low population and high social cohesion tend to be happier.

Denmark, for example, is a generous welfare state. Health care is excellent. University is free and students are paid to attend. Paid holidays extend to six weeks a year. Violent crime is rare.

Unsurprisingly, the next half-dozen countries on the list – Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, The Bahamas, Finland, Sweden – are also (with some variations) small, safe, affluent and homogenous. Canada is 10th on the list, which would seem about right given its prosperity (though not its distinctive diversity).

The United States (where happiness is virtually a constitutional right) is 23rd, Germany 35th, Great Britain 41st. Japan, which is wealthy and healthy, does surprisingly badly at 90th place.

* * *

For the rest of the article, click here. To read White’s study, click here. For other Situationist posts on happiness, click here.

8 Responses to “Happiness Rankings by Country”

  1. Yoshimi said

    I was interested to view this ranking, and had moments of pondering and wondering and then nodding why Japan ranks so low, even though it is wealthy, and highly technological and industrial. To be candid, Japan and its people are not in a healthful environment at all. They are Islanders and thus much of their world is what happens in their lands. Govt system is dysfunctional, high in debt, politicians are old and not so innovative. Still traditional views and mind set predominates the system and thus laws and lives of Japanese. Education system is currupt, not all, but some students and/or parents are lack in confidence, and bribery is an effective yet secret ritual to some. As you see, there is no such a thing as Demorcracy. Politicians do not listen to the poeple who elected them. There is no town hall meeting like the one held in the cities of U.S. It is almost rare to meet them in person, unless you win Olympics. I believe Japan is deeply in trouble with domestic issues by not listening to its own people. I am frustrated due to all this, even though I take pride in its highly creative culture.

  2. Japan rocks big time dude. said

    Japan is like totally way cool, dude. peace love

  3. Lala72 said

    It’s funny how this “study” is so skewed toward socialized nations and indeed so far from this other study, which offers, from my experiences, a far more accurate list:

  4. […] are some wild inconsistencies in the ranking systems I’ve come across.  But one effort that seems to have done a reasonable job offers the interesting fact that only one of the 20 happiest countries in the world qualified for […]

  5. […] som i et ufritt samfunn. I et ufritt samfunn kan man ikke velge å leve som i et fritt samfunn. Til høyre er et bilde som viser hvordan lykke er fordelt i verden. Det går klart fram at de vestlige, mer […]

  6. john said

    jaoan rocks?

    go to the link below and tell me if japan is still cool-this is in consideratin that japan has covered this up and teaches lies to its school children…

  7. eft,feelings,emotions…

    […]Happiness Rankings by Country « The Situationist[…]…

  8. John Gabel said

    I am not surprised that Denmark tops the list.
    Even though the people of Denmark pay an average
    tax in the range of 40%, they get a lot of service
    for this: old age pensions (social sevurity, free
    health care, free tuition for students who not
    only have no tuition, they are paid an average of
    around $1,000 a motnh while attending
    college. They are guaranteed six week vacation
    annually and working after four in the afternoon
    is not common. Almost everyone can travel abroad
    for vacations. The country has a high GDP, a low
    crime rate with little extreme wealth or object
    poverty. The government of Denmark looks after
    the interest of its people and doesn’t try to run
    the world like the U.S.

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