Happiness found to be a good target of policy
Everyone yearns to be happy. Some think obtaining the next hot gadget or cell phone will do it. Others the new hot sports car. For others, a warm bed and food for their family will bring happiness. But what does our yearning for happiness have to do with government policy? How can governments increase our happiness?
As heads of state get ready for the United Nations General Assembly in two weeks, the second World Happiness Report further strengthens the case that well-being should be a critical component of how the world measures its economic and social development. The report is published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), under the auspices of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Leading experts in several fields — economics, psychology, survey analysis, national statistics, and more — describe how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations. The Report is edited by Professor John F. Helliwell, of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Director of the SDSN, and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General.
"There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being," said Professor Jeffery Sachs. "More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development."
The first World Happiness Report, released in 2012 ahead of the UN high-level meeting on Happiness and Well-being, drew international attention as a landmark first survey of the state of global happiness. This new Report goes further. It delves in more detail into the analysis of the global happiness data, examining trends over time and breaking down each country’s score into its component parts, so that citizens and policy makers can understand their country’s ranking. It also draws connections to other major initiatives to measure well-being, including those conducted by the OECD and UNDP’s Human Development Report; and provides guidance for policy makers on how to effectively incorporate well-being into their decision making processes.
The report identifies the countries with the highest levels of happiness:
The World Happiness Report 2013 reveals fascinating trends in the data judging just how happy countries really are. On a scale running from 0 to 10, people in over 150 countries, surveyed by Gallup over the period 2010-12, reveal a population-weighted average score of 5.1 (out of 10). Six key variables explain three-quarters of the variation in annual national average scores over time and among countries. These six factors include: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.
Photo of happy family in park via Shutterstock.
Read more at UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.