Happiness is something we all want, wherever we are and 20th March is the International Day of Happiness. This year it’s about promoting happiness through our connections to other people – feeling isolated doesn’t make you happy. So, where are the happiest people on earth, and how do you measure happiness?
Who first thought of measuring happiness?
The first country to start measuring happiness was Bhutan. The fourth Dragon King coined the term ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) in 1972, when he said, “Gross national happiness is more important than Gross National Product.”
Every policy that’s being proposed in Bhutan must pass a GNH review based on a GNH impact statement – are the policies good for happiness as well as the economy? Since then, the idea of measuring happiness has been adopted by other countries agencies.
How is world happiness measured?
The WHR ranks 156 countries based on Gross Domestic Product – the monetary value of goods and services produced by a country – healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support and perceptions of corruption.
The Happy Planet Index (HPI) looks at whether countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them. The HPI ratings use a calculation based on happiness, longevity, and environmental impact – the ‘ecological footprint’. So a country where the people say they are very happy could end up with a low score on the HPI because they burn lots of fossil fuels or produce lots of waste.
What do the happiness reports show?
According to the World Happiness Report, Denmark is the happiest country on earth, but on the HPI they rank 110 out of 151 because they have a high ecological footprint.
Costa Rica is ranked 12 on the WHR, but is number one on the HPI because life expectancy is a little longer than the Danes: they’re almost as happy, and manage this with a third of the environmental impact.
Low scoring countries are similar on both reports – although they use less resources, people are not very happy with their lives and have short life expectancies.
And where do we sit in all of this? Well, the United Kingdom could do a little better on both scores – we’re 22 on the WHR, and 41 on the HPI. Although we’re quite happy and have high life expectancies, we also have a high ecological footprint, which brings down our HPI score.
How could we be happier?
Action for Happiness have taken the latest research and come up with their ‘Ten keys to happier living’. These are basic principles that make for a happier life. If we want to improve the UK’s score on the Happy Planet Index, then we also need to think about the impact we are having on the environment and (not surprisingly) find ways to reduce it.