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UN Issues World Happiness Report

April 6, 2012
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The first ever World Happiness Report, published by Columbia University’s Earth Institute, reflects a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness and absence of misery as criteria for government policy. Commissioned by the UN General Assembly for United Nations Conference on Happiness, the report “reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness.”

According to the findings of the report, “the happiest countries in the world are all in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands). Their average life evaluation score is 7.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. The least happy countries are all poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone) with average life evaluation scores of 3.4.”

Although relative wealth is a clear component in the report’s findings, other factors are equally crucial in determining happiness. “Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are together more important than income in explaining well-being differences between the top and bottom countries.”

Why is it important to measure happiness? According to Stewart Patrick, “In recent years, a small but influential group of economists has concluded that traditional measurements of national progress, typically couched in terms of per capita Gross National Product (GNP), don’t actually tell us much about the wellbeing of citizens…In fact, as pioneering researchers like Carol Graham of the Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland have shown, there’s little correlation between national income and contentment. Some of the highest levels of happiness have been recorded in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example.”

Read original article by Jonathan Nettler on Planetizen

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