“Gross National Product (GDP) has long been the yardstick by which economies and politicians have been measured. Yet it fails to take into account the social and environmental costs of so-called progress,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks at a high-level meeting at UN Headquarters in New York.
I am very very excited about what the United Nations is doing with happiness. On April 2, 2012, government representatives and happiness experts and leaders all over the world met at the UN Headquarters in New York for a meeting entitled Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm. Read more about it here.
The meeting resulted in the release of the inaugural World Happiness Report, a 150-page document that talks about the causes of happiness, policy implications, and some case studies. For those of you who’s too lazy to read a 150-page document, I’ve posted a summary after the jump. (I haven’t read it either. I just found a summary online. heh.)
World Happiness Report Summary
The happiest countries in the world are all in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands). Their average life evaluation score is 7.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. The least happy countries are all poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone) with average life evaluation scores of 3.4. But it is not just wealth that makes people happy: political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are together more important than income in explaining well-being differences between the top and bottom countries. At the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are crucial.
- Happier countries tend to be richer countries. But more
- important for happiness than income are social factors like the strength of social support, the absence of corruption and the degree of personal freedom.
- Over time as living standards have risen, happiness has increased in some countries, but not in others (like for example, the United States). On average, the world has become a little happier in the last 30 years (by 0.14 times the standard deviation of happiness around the world).
- Unemployment causes as much unhappiness as bereavement or separation. At work, job security and good relationships do more for job satisfaction than high pay and convenient hours.
- Behaving well makes people happier.
- Mental health is the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country. Yet only a quarter of mentally ill people get treatment for their condition in advanced countries and fewer in poorer countries.
- Stable family life and enduring marriages are important for the happiness of parents and children.
- In advanced countries, women are happier than men, while the position in poorer countries is mixed.
- Happiness is lowest in middle age.
The points above reflect why I’m so excited about this. The heightened attention on happiness has so much potential to totally revolutionize the way we live; it’s a paradigm shift.