2012-02-17

Co.Exist

The Secrets Of The Happiest Countries In The World

Despite what appears to be a dismal outlook, global happiness is actually on the rise. But some countries are clearly happier than others? Where are people the most satisfied? Not necessarily where you would think.

Sometimes it seems like the world is a scarier place than it used to be, with floods, earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns, and deadly flu viruses popping up like we’re in a planetary game of disaster Whac-a-Mole. And yet the world seems to be a happier place than it was four years ago—at least in some lucky parts of the world.

Global research company Ipsos recently released results from its annual world happiness poll, which talked to 18,687 adults in 24 countries about their happiness. Surprisingly, 77% of people polled in November 2011 said they were "happy," while 22% reported that they were "very happy." In 2007, 20% of people reported that they were very happy.

Some countries are significantly happier than others (happiness is, of course, subjective). Indonesia, India Mexico, and Brazil lead the pack in happiness, while Russia, South Korea, and Hungary are all pretty miserable (see the chart). There are other factors as well: People who are under 25 are most likely to say they’re "very happy"; Latin American countries as a whole have the most "very happy" people; and people with high income and extensive education are also most likely to report being "very happy."

World events certainly play a part in happiness, but they don’t mean everything either. Japan’s rate of "very happy" citizens climbed six points between 2007 and November 2011—meaning residents as a whole were happier after the Fukushima disaster than before.

Income isn’t everything either. As Richard Heinberg notes in his book The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being, the percentage of Americans describing themselves as either “very happy” or “pretty happy” (in different studies) peaked in the 1950s, even though per capita income has ballooned since then.

There are clearly other, more personal factors that can’t be measured in a simple survey. But if you want a quick happiness boost, consider spending time in your nearest beautiful city.

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25 Comments

  • Bionicle

    I disagree that Indonesia is the happiest.  I think the Philippines is the happiest country (and people) in the world.  No matter what happens to the country-- drought, famine, typhoon, floods, political upheaval, peace, economic downturn or upturn, boom, or bust, we're a very happy bunch of people.

  • Jew Barrymore

    Bionicle must be filo... u mad bro? You know why the Philippines isn't on that list? Its due to the fact that they "act" happy but really if surveyed anonymously and individually, they are not. They are great entertainers and a culture who loves music, with many descendants who have made it big in the American Entertainment Industry i.e. Bruno Mars, Apl from B.E.P and more. But in their native country, its a different story. They are just good at using the arts to hide their deep-seeded cultural issues, which is why its rare to find a filo women married to a filo man #whitefever 

  • PowerUpCall

        tWow, the peak for happiness in the US was in the 50’s!
    Since the 50’s we have experienced a constant
    and accelerating growth in government social programs and regulatory agencies.
    Could it be that the expansion of these programs is killing our happiness? Especially when you consider that the four essential elements identified by researchers that generate happiness for people are: perception of control,
    perception of progress, connectedness (to other people), and Vision/Meaning (being part of
    something bigger than oneself)?

  • Diego Viana Gomes

    Perhaps the joy of the Brazilians, is something not very good because this is being planned by the government for the next 20 years , I believe which soon Brazil will be a Greece or Spain 

  • Inske100

    Food for thought: who wouldn't be happier in Mexico than in Russia in the wintertime?

  • Gaspar Wosa

    Apart from statistical limitation of the survey in such a global scale, i don't think that it is going to be correct if you simply just turn the table up side down either.

  • Tony

    2 big problems in this survey.

    1) translation. I wonder if "happy" was appropriately translated to have the same meaning and emotional charge across each and every country.

    2) "Very happy" probably is a misleading term, closer to euphoric than to deep contentment. Studies show that older people are consistently happier that young adults.

    One more international quantitative survey mired in problems of meaning and translation...

  • Merrybee47

    I just turned 65 . . . I am more at peace than when I was young.
    I know what I believe and am not afraid of what people think.
    It does give me pause. But also, my daughter married a man
    from Indonesia and he is happy all the time despite setbacks
    and struggles. He is so incredibly flexible and accepting of
    others! I have learned a lot from observing him.

  • Kathy @ SMART LIving 365.com

    Thanks for the post...We all need to be reminded of this on a regular basis. There are tons of well documented studies that show that people are happy largely when they THINK they are happy--once their basic needs are met.  Plus, other cultures have different perspectives on a good life and that can make them believe they are happy...or as Lincoln said, "People are about as happy as they make up their mind to be."  I wrote more about this idea in my own blog at http://smartliving365.com/?p=7...   

  • Sayo Belli

    This article, and most likely this research as well, probably failed in taking into account key cultural aspects of the people they were interviewing. From experience living in Latin America and being a marketer who has done and seen many studies, I can assure you that people lie, especially the lower their income levels.  They try to make the interviewer happy but telling them what they think they want to hear. Knowing how they really feel isnt as easy as asking the question.

  • SoundsGr8toMe

    You've been LIED to!  If people are happy in Mexico, WHY are they wanting to come here?  (USA)
    And WHY do people from ALL the other countries listed above the USA, want to come HERE?

  • Jew Barrymore

    I agree with Linx. Lies, all lies. But the world is no longer fooled. Alas! Australia is the new America! Come here on a working holiday visa and earn $6000 a month just by picking potatoes! lol

  • linx

     Let's try that again with the correct grammar & spelling:

    Are you serious, you really believe everyone wants to come to the United
    States?  I wonder why most of the people that want to come to the
    states do?  Because they have been lied to, by televison and Hollywood
    showing them the perfect American life.  Whether this graph is correct
    or not, I can't say.  But your response makes you sound like an
    American idiot.

  • linx

     Let's try that again with the correct grammar & spelling:

    Are you serious, you really believe everyone wants to come to the United
    States?  I wonder why most of the poeple that want to come to the
    states do?  Because they have been lied to, by televison and Hollywood
    showing them the perfect American life.  Whether this graph is correct
    or not, I can't say.  But your response makes you sound like an
    American idiot.

  • linx

    Are you serious, you really believe everyone wants to come to the United States?  I wonder why most of the poeple that want to come to the states do?  Because they have been lied to, by televison and Hollywood showing them the perfect American life.  Whether this graph is correct or not, I can't say for.  But your reponse makes you sound like an American idiot.

  • gopal

     what will be the percentage of total population in indonesia and india want to come to USA .It will be hardly 1 to 2 percent.That too they go for higher studies and on work

  • Diegsfb

       because mexicans earn more money and have better jobs in the US, and they NEED that money. but in fact mexicans who live on the other side are sad about it and miss their country. in here (MEX) we have better climate, a bigger society, people are more friendly, we stay in touch with our families throughout our entire life, thats why we have big families. and if you have the luck of having college education you can earn the same or more than in the US. 
    even though we have a lot of problems we also have a lot of advantages you dont have

  • Njhill

    18'687 people across 24 hugely populated countries isn't exactly a huge sample size either.   I'm not a stats man but I wouldn't call that reliable in any sense.