Start smiling, March 20 is the International Day of Happiness and, among other things, will herald the release of the next World Happiness Report which last year had Australia in ninth place.
The current World Happiness Report, published on 18 March 2018 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, ranked 155 countries by their happiness levels.
Finland was at the top and scored an average of 7.632. Other Nordic nations also ranked high on the list of happiest countries; after Finland, the top nine spots were occupied by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.
The 2017 report emphasised the importance of the social foundations of happiness. This could be seen by comparing the life experiences between the top and bottom ten countries.
There is a major happiness gap between the two groups of countries, of which three-quarters is explained by the six variables, half due to differences in having someone to count on, generosity, a sense of freedom, and freedom from corruption.
The other half of the explained difference is attributed to GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy, both of which also depend importantly on the social context.
The USA is a story of reduced happiness. In 2007 the USA ranked 3rd among the OECD countries; in 2016 it came 14th and in 2017 it dropped to 18th.
The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption and it is these same factors that explain why the Nordic countries do so much better.
Analysis from Richard A. Easterlin, who pioneered the economics of happiness more than 40 years ago, contrasts the sharply growing per capita income in China over the past 25 years with life evaluations that fell steadily from 1990 till about 2005, recovering since then to about the 1990 levels.
The falls in happiness in the first part of this period are attributed to rising unemployment and fraying social safety nets.
Variations in levels of happiness can be explained by economic factors (such as income and employment), social factors (such as education and family life), and health (mental and physical). Mental health explains more of the variance of happiness in than income does.
Well-paying jobs are conducive to happiness, but this is far from the whole story. A range of further aspects are found to be strongly predictive of happiness. Other important job factors driving subjective wellbeing include work-life balance, autonomy, variety, job security, social capital, and health and safety risks.
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