An international team of economists, neuroscientists, and statisticians just released their fourth World Happiness Report, which measures well-being in countries around the world to help guide public policy.
Denmark topped the list of the happiest nations, and all of the top seven countries were in the global north. Denmark was followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands.
The United States ranked 13th, a slight improvement from the last report, in which the US ranked 15th.
The World Happiness Report isn’t without a scientific basis.
One of its key findings, based on decades of economic, sociological, and psychological research, is that being happy seems to rely on at least six main factors: 1) being mindful and allowing ourselves to feel “captured” by emotions like awe or joy, 2) access to necessary material resources, 3) stimulating work and decent work conditions, 4) personal freedoms, 5) good governance, and 6) strong social ties and the opportunity to spend time with family and friends.
Here are the 30 happiest countries from the study. Each colour represents one of the six key factors (key below):
Happiness helps us live longer, healthier, and more productive lives, and cultivating that emotion early in life is key, according the 2016 report.
But not to worry: it’s never too late to start.
Research shows that people who participate in meditation and mindfulness training programs (some as short as two weeks) tend to display changes in key areas of the brain connected to memory, perspective, and self-awareness. And a handful of recent studies have found a link between experiencing a sense of awe and feeling happier and more satisfied.
“We need to explore in much more detail how the cultivation of mindfulness … may contribute to long-term happiness,” the researchers write in their report.
With that in mind, here are the 10 least-happy countries, with Burundi topping the list. Liberia is also a new addition to the bottom-10 list. Beginning in Sept. 2014, Ebola virus swept through the country, claiming 4,809 lives.
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