To be happier

Words: Werner Jessner and Arek Piatek
Illustrations: Alex Williamson

…Than the swiss. Realising this dream would involve nothing short of a global effort

The Red Bulletin takes a look at mankind’s current records – and how far we are from our absolute peak. Part 6 - Happiness. 

The World Happiness Report, published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, is a survey detailing feelings of wellbeing among the global population. A representative sample of people from each of the world’s nations are asked to rate their satisfaction in a number of areas, including economic situation, sense of security, personal freedom, optimism for the future, and inclination to help others. 

From their responses, a calculation of that country’s happiness levels is made, on a scale of 0 to 10. In the 2015 report, Switzerland scores highest at 7.587, followed by Iceland and Denmark. The wooden spoon goes to Togo (2.839), followed by Burundi and Syria. In Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and Ecuador, people have become happier by roughly a percentage point over the last decade, while the lives of Greeks, Egyptians and Italians have taken the unhappiest turns. 

The most important individual factors were improvements in healthcare in South America, economic crisis in Europe, sporadic war and despotism, and increased peace and stability for the happiest.

Statistik

Happiest country on Earth: Switzerland, with a score of 7.587 

Potential happiest country on Earth:  All countries, with a score of 10

In the World Happiness Report, Switzerland comes top with 7.587 points. But
a worldwide score of 10 should be our common goal

So, what sort of government makes us happy? The World Happiness Report offers an answer: politicians should make the happiness of their citizens the primary goal and not over-prioritise individual policy areas such as territorial claims or formidable economic power. Every penny of public expenditure should then be allocated based on a constantly tweaked list of what makes the population happy. 

How does a government compile this list? The World Happiness Report’s canon of pertinent factors wouldn’t be a bad place to start.And what does this mean for the individual? The UN’s report also shows us that the quality of human relationships is all-important when it comes to personal happiness; if we have good friends, even things like time, money and health can fade into the background. This helps to explain the surprisingly good ratings of some poorly developed countries. So before we put all our faith in politics, let’s take care of our friendships.

The Upshot 

OK, so total worldwide satisfaction is an illusion (albeit a nice one) and the support of politicians alone can’t be relied upon. A holiday in Switzerland with friends would be a good start, though.

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08 2015 The Red Bulletin

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