The results are in for the UN’s 2018 World Happiness Report, with Finland revealed as the happiest country on the planet, taking over from Denmark, Switzerland and Norway, which have each held the top spot in the last four years.

Taking into consideration six key variables that have been found to support well-being – income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity – the report assesses 156 countries according to their happiness levels, as well as 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants. (The overall rankings of country happiness are based on the pooled results from Gallup World Poll surveys from 2015-2017.)

According to data gathered over the last ten years, Togo has made the biggest improvement in happiness, moving up 17 places from last place in 2015. Getting sadder is Venezuela, down 2.2 points on the 0 to 10 scale, a slide greater than any other country. The report says: “The ten countries with the largest declines in average life evaluations typically suffered some combination of economic, political and social stresses.”

The UK came 19th (the same as last year), while the US slipped to 18th position, down five places on 2016. This has been attributed to a rise in depression, substance abuse and obesity.

Why has Finland done so well? Its population of 5.5 million people benefits from living in one of the safest, most stable and well governed countries in the world. It has low amounts of corruption, it’s socially progressive, the police are trusted and the banks reliable.

Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, told The Guardian: “GDP per capita in Finland is lower than its neighbouring Nordic countries and is much lower than that of the US. [But] the Finns are good at converting wealth into wellbeing.”

He added: ““In the Nordic countries in general, we pay some of the highest taxes in the world, but there is wide public support for that because people see them as investments in quality of life for all. Free healthcare and university education goes a long way when it comes to happiness.”

The ten happiest countries in the world 2018

1. Finland

2. Norway

3. Denmark

4. Iceland

5. Switzerland

6. Netherlands

7. Canada

8. New Zealand

9. Sweden

10. Australia

The ten unhappiest countries in the world 2018

156. Burundi

155. Central African Republic

154. South Sudan

153. Tanzania

152. Yemen

151. Rwanda

150. Syria

149. Liberia

148. Haiti

147. Malawi

Greener pastures?

About 10 per cent of the world’s 250 million migrants are refugees. “Increasingly, with globalisation, the people of the world are on the move; and most of these migrants are seeking a happier life. But do they achieve it?” asks the report. “Yes,” is the answer.

The data showed that a ranking of countries according to the happiness of their immigrant populations is almost exactly the same as for the rest of the population. Finland has the happiest migrants and the happiest population overall.

“The closeness of the two rankings shows that the happiness of immigrants depends predominantly on the quality of life where they now live, illustrating a general pattern of convergence. Happiness can change, and does change, according to the quality of the society in which people live.

“Immigrant happiness, like that of the locally born, depends on a range of features of the social fabric, extending far beyond the higher incomes traditionally thought to inspire and reward migration. The countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries, but instead the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives,” states the report.

Interestingly, the happiest countries also have more immigrants than on average. The report says: “Looking at the ten happiest countries, they have foreign-born population shares averaging 17.2 per cent, about twice that for the world as a whole. For the top five countries, four of which have held the first-place position within the past five years, the average share of the foreign-born in the resident population is 14.3 per cent, well above the world average.”

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