Who are the happiest people in the world?

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Upon their return from countries with high levels of poverty I often hear people say “they might be poor, but they seem so much happier than us.” It’s a comforting thought for those of us who live with great wealth. But it’s not true.

The 2016 World Happiness Report has just been released and it shows that the top 10 countries are all affluent industrialised nations and the bottom 10 are all nations with high levels of poverty or conflict.

This is not to suggest that money makes you happy, but that citizens of countries with higher levels of affluence tend to have access to those things that contribute to happiness, such as freedom from conflict, freedom to make choices, higher levels of health life expectancy.

Researchers used the “Cantril ladder question” to measure happiness: “Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?”

Using this measure, the 20 most happy countries were

1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Iceland
4. Norway
5. Finland
6. Canada
7. Netherlands
8. New Zealand
9. Australia
10. Sweden
11. Israel
12. Austria
13. United States
14. Costa Rica
15. Peorto Rico
16. Germany
17. Brazil
18. Belgium
19. Ireland
20. Luxenberg

The 20 least happy countries by this measure were:

1. Burundi
2. Syria
3. Togo
4. Afghanistan
5. Benin
6. Rwanda
7. Guinea
8. Liberia
9. Tanzania
10. Madagascar
11. Yemen
12. Uganda
13. Burkina Faso
14. Niger
15. Angola
16. Cambodia
17. Ivory Coast
18. Comoros
19. Botswana
20. Haiti

Of course, those who live with high levels of poverty laugh, play, and find moments of joy,possess wisdom and knowledge, have hopes and aspirations, but they are also denied many of those things that lead to high levels of satisfaction with life. I am thankful to live in a country that ranks in the top 10 for levels of life satisfaction and happiness. I did nothing to deserve or earn it. I was just lucky to be born here. It seems only right then that I should do all I can to help create a world where every person in every nation is able to enjoy those things that contribute to a more satisfying life.

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