Hong Kong is the happiest nation by a new survey that measures net migration patterns.

Next is Singapore.

New Zealand




South Korea




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A New Way To Measure Happiness Finds The True Happiest Countries In The World

If people in a country are so happy, why would they want to leave?

We've covered a few national happiness rankings here (most recently this big United Nations study that had Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland at its happiest places). A new ranking from Spain has some of the same countries at the top—Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway—but it uses very different methods to arrive at its conclusions. Simply: rather than asking people whether they're happy, it looks at their actions—as revealed by whether leave or stay in countries—instead.

The researchers say this is a more accurate, and objective, way of measuring relative happiness (and as we've covered before, people are typically poor judges of their own happiness).

The reasons why people are or aren't happy, they note, are usually similar to those dictating whether they decide to migrate, such as income, levels of violence, environment, and so on. By looking at data for 112 countries for several criteria, and then looking at migration patterns for pairs of countries, they estimate the influence of these factors on why people stay or go.

"For instance, if people move from a country that has terrorism to another country that doesn't have terrorism, that tells how important terrorism is for people," says Juan de Dios Tena, a professor of statistics at Charles III University, in Madrid, and one of the study's authors. "We don't ask people if it's important to move to a country where people live in peace, we see if people move to countries where they live in peace."

The researchers point out that other happiness surveys find that countries are happy even when large numbers of people want to leave them; and vice versa. In the study, 19 countries have net migration even though they are "self-proclaimed happy in surveys," and 20 are migration recipients, although they are "self-proclaimed unhappy."

Other happiness surveys have come up with even stranger results. For example, one study had Haiti ahead of the United States, and Afghanistan beating Denmark, even though the latter countries tend to be more far more common destinations for migration. As the paper says, "it is natural to see countries that are net recipients of migrants as happier countries."

[Image via Shutterstock]

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  • chloexq

    But I suppose only a certain stratum of each country is actually in a position to choose between migrating and not migrating

  • Veronica

    I think it is not enough to base the happiness on migration. Some people in poor countries would like to migrate but they just simply can't. People in richest country like to have new experiences and they migrate, but they are happy in their home country. How is that covered?
    Anyway do we need to compare how happy we are? Strange!

  • BenGleck

    "...20 are migration recipients, although they are 'self-proclaimed unhappy.'" This delineates the biggest problem with this methodology: many people unknowingly desire to, and do, move to countries that will actually make them unhappier. Since this methodology uses a net migration metric, it does not account for this statistics-skewing phenomenon.

  • BenGleck

    "...20 are migration recipients, although they are 'self-proclaimed unhappy.'" Whih is the precise problem with this methodology.

  • V. Sealy

    Enjoy your publication and will continue to subscribe and review its modern concepts however if i may suggest, when you do a survey that speaks to a specific human condition make sure the survey is global an not  regional. Surely you jest about the happiest countries in the world,,this one is flawed.

  • iamhungry

       You might think that but New Zealand has 20% of it's population living overseas and it comes 3rd in this ranking.

  • Marque Pierre Sondergaard

    Nordic countries traditionally sits very high on the happiness scales - however one thing we have from our viking ancestors is an openness towards the world and a willingness to travel.

    Which would score against us on this metric. Despite our state of happiness.