Are we having fun yet? Brits come 18th in UN's first World Happiness rankings... behind Costa Rica, Israel and UAE
The UK has been placed behind the likes of Costa Rica, Israel and the United Arab Emirates in a global league table of happiness.
Despite being one of the richest nations in the world, the UK has been ranked as only the 18th happiest in an authoritative United Nations report, behind much poorer countries.
Britain was placed six places behind Costa Rica – a country where average income levels are less than one quarter of those in the UK.
Nobody happier: Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark, where citizens are the happiest in the world, the report found
The relatively high level of family breakdown in the UK is one reason why we may have been pushed down the list.
The table was topped by wealthy Scandinavian nations – with Denmark, Finland and Norway ranked as the three happiest respectively.
Impoverished and war-ravaged nations in Africa, including Sierra Leone and Togo, came at the bottom of the table.
But despite a general link between a
country’s wealth and its mood, the author of the World Happiness Report
said the two factors were not inherently linked.
Not happy: Women shop at a market in Tsevie, Togo, Africa. Togo is the least happy nation in the world, behind a long list of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa
Jeffrey Sachs, a development
economist from New York’s Columbia University, said happiness could be
achieved independently of a country’s economic performance, arguing:
‘The U.S. has had a three-time increase of gross national product per
capita since 1960, but the happiness needle hasn’t budged.’
WHO ARE THE WORLD'S HAPPIEST?
8. New Zealand
12. Costa Rica
17. United Arab Emirates
18. United Kingdom
Other factors such as social relations and general health were deemed more important.
The report incorporated several
British studies which had found that marriage and self-employment were
key factors leading to an increase in levels of happiness in the UK.
Mr Sachs said ‘affluence has created its own set of afflictions’.
He added that economic development
led to problems such as eating disorders, obesity, diabetes and
tobacco-related illnesses. The academic also said economic development
led to addiction to shopping, television and gambling.
He warned that there were wider
social issues associated with economic growth, including ‘the loss of
community, the decline of social trust, and the rising anxiety levels
associated with the vagaries of the modern globalised economy’.
The table was created by the UN, which compiled worldwide survey responses from 2005 until mid-2011 to determine the happiness level of 156 different countries.
The idea of a national happiness score in order to determine policy has been used in Britain.
Last year a controversial £2million
survey ordered by David Cameron concluded that three quarters of the
population rated themselves as ‘seven out of ten’ on a wellbeing scale.
Critics of the survey argued that it was costly and unnecessary.
But the Office for National Statistics, which carried out the research, said the study was just the first step towards measuring national wellbeing and helping future governments base their policies on what makes voters happy.
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