Denmark is the happiest country in the world, according to a new report by Columbia University for the United Nations Conference on Happiness. The World Happiness Report analyzes levels of happiness in countries worldwide, and examines how various economic and societal factors affect happiness.
According to the study, Norway and Finland round out the top three happiest countries; at the other end, Togo, Benin, and Central African Republic–impoverished countries in Sub-Saharan Africa–ranked lowest on the study’s scale. Though income does play a role in happiness, the study notes:
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.
As for the United States, which ranked #11, the study’s authors give an explanation for why we may not be higher on the list:
The world’s economic superpower, the United States, has achieved striking economic and technological progress over the past half century without gains in the self-reported happiness of the citizenry. Instead, uncertainties and anxieties are high, social and economic inequalities have widened considerably, social trust is in decline, and confidence in government is at an all-time low. Perhaps for these reasons, life satisfaction has remained nearly constant during decades of rising Gross National Product (GNP) per capita.
Image by the World Happiness Report