happy

The latest list of the world’s happiest countries is out. Norway tops the chart, but three countries in particular have not seen such a good performance in recent years – the US, China and a certain other country somewhat closer to home.The good news for Brits who like to get one over France, is that the UK is officially classified as a happier country that France, in 31st spot.

But then the UK sits at number 19 in the list of the world’s happiest countries and Brits are less happy today than ten years ago.

Norway has raced up the chart, from fourth place a year ago, to number one. It turns out that the four happiest counties in the world have two big things in common. First off, they are all pretty much as happy as each other. Norway may be number one, but they are so close that it only takes a small change to upset the order of these four. The other thing is snow.

Behind Norway, sits Denmark – last year’s number one – followed by Iceland and Switzerland.

The rest of the top ten, and listed in order, consists of Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and in joint ninth spot comes Australia and Sweden.

This all begs the question how did Australia make the top ten, despite seeing such little snow?

Why are these countries so happy? They score well for being caring, free, generosity, honesty health, income and good governance

Inequality, or rather lack of it, is also meant to be a good guide to happiness.

Things like having someone to count on in times of trouble helps.

Comparing the happiest with the least happy countries, it seems you can put the differences into two categories. The first is largely social – having someone to count on, freedom, generosity, trust and lack of corruption. The second is more economic – GDP per capita, health, life expectancy, for example.

But looking further afield, China may have seen extraordinary growth in the last 25 years – but it turns out that people are no more happy then they were in the early 1990s.

The US is less happy today than in 2007, and has fallen sharply down the rankings to 14th happiest country in the world.

But Africa seems to be the least happy of all continents.

And what about happiness within rich countries? It turns out that inequality is less important than differences in mental health, physical health and social relationships.

There is another way you can put it. The Beatles were right. Money can’t buy you love.

And it turns out that love rather than money is the key to happiness.