The World Happiness Report concludes that the objective of governments should be to create conditions for the greatest possible happiness and the least possible amount of suffering by creating an ethical system that is both convincing and inspiring.
The report, which came out earlier this year, measured overall happiness based on each nation’s average income per person in a country (GDP per capita), social support (having access to friends and family to count on for support in times of trouble), healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity (the ability to donate money to charitable causes), and the population’s perceptions of corruption.
We took the data-heavy World Happiness Report along with two more to distinguish the world’s most (and least) peaceful, happiest, and most environmentally sustainable nations on the planet, then cross-sectioned all of the data to create a list of the top countries with the highest average rating of low environmental impact, overall well-being and human welfare, and peacefulness.
Across all of this research, while some nations progress and some nations regress, we were also gently reminded that some trends remain - most developed nations on the planet leave the highest ecological footprints, some of the happiest nations on the planet suffer ongoing internal conflict, and many nations in developed and under-developed regions of the world can score high overall while facing daily struggle and injustice – amongst much more.
Here is how the happiest and safest countries performed:
- Europe is the most peaceful geographic region in the world, accounting for six of the top seven nations in the global rankings. (Global Peace Index)
- Panama, Thailand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Mauritania are amongst the top five risers with the most improvement made in internal peace, with a decrease in military expenditure in all five nations, as well as the improvement of internal conflict in Mauritania, South Africa, and Sri Lanka, and improvement of relations with neighbouring countries for Sri Lanka and Thailand. (Global Peace Index)
- Four national governments – Bhutan, Ecuador, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela – have officially appointed ministers of happiness. (World Happiness Report)
Panama is one of the top five risers for 2016 on the Global Peace Index, beating its last year’s 2015 ranking and jumping up 15 spots. How did they do it? Panama’s stable political environment was a contribution to the improvement in internal peace, as well as the building of large infrastructures, including the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is projected to increase revenue and stimulate growth in the regional economy.
Happy Planet overall rank: 7/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 25/157
Global Peace Index: 49/163
Costa Rica came in at number one on Happy Planet’s overall rank, making this one of the happiest places on earth. Costa Rica has been without a military since 1948 and then it was officially banned in 1949, which has allowed the nation to redirect what would have been military spending to more positive ventures like education and culture. With a high score on the well-being scale and one of the lowest ecological footprints, life for locals on the rich coast is pura vida.
Happy Planet overall rank: 1/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 14/157
Global Peace Index: 33/163
Argentina gave us the tango - one of the most sensual, dramatic Latin dances of all time. While this reason alone may be the cause for any given boom in the population, there is no doubt that Argentinians are some of the happiest people on the planet. Argentina scores high overall for happiness and well-being – this nation has one of the highest number of national holidays in the world – and is one of the safest countries on the planet.
Happy Planet overall rank: 17/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 26/157
Global Peace Index: 67/163
Diverse landscapes from glaciers to rainforests, rich culture, and abundant wildlife (I’m talking penguins, penguins, penguins), Chile is also one of the happiest, safest nations on the planet with a high standard of living.
Happy Planet overall rank: 19/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 24/157
Global Peace Index: 27/163
Consistently one of the safest nations on the planet year to year, it’s no accident that New Zealand is also one of the happiest (and friendliest - I think we can all agree on that.)
Happy Planet overall rank: 28/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 8/157
Global Peace Index: 4/163
In the winter, when some of winter’s shortest, darkest days of the year roll around, Scandinavians practise koselig, that is, the art of feeling warm, happy, and cozy – perhaps this says much of the culture. Norway is one of the happiest nations on the planet, coming in fourth overall on the World Happiness Report. It might be true what they say about happy people living longer; Norway’s life expectancy averages at about 81.1 years old, one of the highest in the world.
Happy Planet overall rank: 29/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 4/157
Global Peace Index: 17/163
Cheese, chocolate, luxury time pieces. Switzerland is the capital of indulgences which may be how it earned its place as one of the happiest nations in the world, coming in second place overall on the World Happiness Report. Switzerland is also one of the top five nations with the highest level of well-being, according to the Happy Planet Index with one of the highest GDP per capita in the world.
Happy Planet overall rank: 34/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 2/157
Global Peace Index: 7/163
One of the two largest European countries with a population of over 62 million people, the United Kingdom is the capital of culture, art, and history. As one of the happiest nations, Britons also have one of the world’s highest life expectancies, one of the highest ratings of experienced well-being.
Happy Planet overall rank: 41/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 23/157
Global Peace Index: 47/163
Vive Le France. With the second highest number of Michelin-star restaurants in the world, a culture of world-class taste, spirit, and indulgence, it’s no surprise the City of Light is home to some of the happiest people on the planet. France’s GDP per capita, which ranks higher than the global average, healthy social support, long life expectancy, and high scores on experienced well-being were all driving factors in France’s top scores.
Happy Planet overall rank: 50/151
World Happiness Report overall rank: 32/157
Global Peace Index: 46/163
Top 10s by Report
Global Peace Index 2016
Happy Planet Index – Overall Well-Being
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
World Happiness Report – Overall Well-Being
Happy Planet Index – Ecological Footprint (Lowest)
- Rep. of the Congo
Information on the reports:
Data used from the Happy Planet Index and World Happiness Report is a cross-section of nations that appear in each other’s list of top 50 nations. Data used from the Global Peace Index is a cross section of nations within the top 70 countries that appear in both the Happy Planet and World Happiness reports’ top 50 nations.
The Global Peace Index uses data from the most recent report (2016, tenth edition) with data gathered by independent experts at The Institute of Economics and Peace, founded in Australia. The GPI is a comprehensive analysis to date on the trends in peace and violence over the past ten years which measured 163 nations’ peacefulness based on three broad themes: the level of safety and security in a society, the number of international and domestic conflicts, and the degree of militarization.
The Happy Planet Index uses data from the most recent report (2012, third edition) with data gathered from between 2008-2012 by UK-based independent experts at the new economics foundation. Happy Planet report measures each nation’s overall happiness based on a breakdown of high life expectancy, high levels of experienced well-being, and a moderate ecological footprint.
The World Happiness Report uses data from the most recent report (2016, fourth edition) with data gathered from 2013-2015 by independent experts at Gallup, Inc. based in the US. The World Happiness Report measures overall happiness based on each nation’s GDP per capita (the average income per person in a country), social support (having access to friends and family to count on for support in times of trouble), healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity (the ability to donate money to charitable causes), and the population’s perceptions of corruption.
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