Australia is one of the 10 happiest countries in the world

Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Australia has come in at 9th in the world rankings of happiest countries.

The latest World Happiness Report has just been released by the United Nations showing Norway at the top of the rankings.

“It is sometimes said that Norway achieves and maintains its high happiness not because of its oil wealth, but in spite of it,” the report says.

“By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies.”

The report uses six variables to judge happiness: income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust (measured by the absence of corruption in business and government).

All countries in the top ten have high values in all six.

Australia and Sweden tied for the 9th position, having the same 2014-2016 score to three decimal points.

The top ten, with their scores:

    1. Norway (7.537)
    2. Denmark (7.522)
    3. Iceland (7.504)
    4. Switzerland (7.494)
    5. Finland (7.469)
    6. Netherlands (7.377)
    7. Canada (7.316)
    8. New Zealand (7.314)
    9. Australia (7.284)
    10. Sweden (7.284)

The US came in at 14th, the UK 19th and Singapore 26th.

This year’s report emphasises the importance of the social foundations of happiness.

This can be seen by comparing the life experiences between the top and bottom ten countries.

There is a four-point happiness gap between the two groups of countries, of which three-quarters are explained by the six variables, half due to differences in having someone to count on, generosity, a sense of freedom, and freedom from corruption.

The other half of the difference is attributed to GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy.

However, 80% of the variance of happiness across the world occurs within countries.

In richer countries the within-country differences are not mainly explained by income inequality, but by differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships.

“The biggest single source of misery is mental illness,” says the report.

“Income differences matter more in poorer countries, but even their mental illness is a major source of misery.

“Work is also a major factor affecting happiness. Unemployment causes a major fall in happiness, and even for those in work the quality of work can cause major variations in happiness.”

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