What Makes Some Countries Happier than Others?

What makes a country happy? A recent report found that people in the happiest countries have a higher per capita gross domestic product (GDP), and have less corruption, its citizens live longer and healthier lives, they have more social support and freedom to make life choices.

The nation of Bhutan was the first society to determine policy based on the happiness of its citizens, when the king of Bhutan famously claiming in 1972 that Gross National Happiness (GNH) was a more important measure of progress than Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Some of the factors that enhances a country’s happiness are its human resources, standard of living, natural resources, capital formation, social and political factors, among various others. The most important thing for improving the overall development of the entire nation depends on the education system. The nations which focus towards serving people with quality education always contribute to the development of the country also.

From 2013 until today, every time the World Happiness Report has published its annual ranking of countries, the five Nordic countries – Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland, have all been in the top ten, with Nordic countries occupying the top three spots in 2017, 2018, and 2019. In Denmark, citizens enjoy tuition-free access to high-quality education and free public health care. The country comes up as having the happiest people in the world in almost every international survey conducted. Having a good education motivates the citizens to do something new, innovative and extraordinary from their daily lives thus raising their standard of living.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said “Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous and environmentally sustainable”. He said that the US focuses more on economic growth at the expense of happiness. “There is a very strong message for my country, the United States, which is very rich, has gotten a lot richer over the last 50 years, but has gotten no happier”, “The message for the United States is clear. For a society that just chases money, we are chasing the wrong things. Our social fabric is deteriorating, social trust is deteriorating, faith in government is deteriorating,” he explained.

Unlike the US, Costa Rica, a relatively poor Latin American country, came in 14th, ahead of many wealthier countries. This is perhaps due to its focus on human and environmental health, rather than economic growth alone. All of the countries that ranked in the top 10, have different political approach than in the United States. Lower levels of happiness in the United States could be driven by social conflict, lack of access to affordable health care, high tax rates and income inequality.

External factors like economic and political turmoil caused a significant drop in happiness levels in some countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ukraine. Other countries that suffered economic crises or natural disasters, like Ireland, Iceland, and Japan, were able to maintain their happiness levels, perhaps because of high levels of social support.

Therefore, a government truly committed to enhancing the well-being of all its citizens can obviously do so, regardless of the size of its GDP, or political situation. But this commitment, can only be made by a government that is devoted to the broad public interest, instead of the narrow interests of the rich and powerful.

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