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Conversations about expat destinations or where to visit on your holidays often tackle subjects like the cost of living and the weather – but very rarely the local culture.
But isn’t that just as important? Wouldn’t we all rather be surrounded by happy, satisfied people than whinging, dissatisfied ones?
If so, you’re in luck.
The World Happiness Report calls itself “a landmark survey of the state of global happiness”, and while the concept may sound “hokey” it is actually based on solid science and a vast amount of research.
Published each year since 2012, the annual report is published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and makes for some fascinating reading. But which country truly has the happiest inhabitants – and is there any correlation with weather?!
According to the most recently-published report, the Swiss are actually the happiest nation in the world, with much of their happiness on account of their healthy economy, community spirit and long life expectancy.
Just pipped to the number one position is Iceland, despite the financial woes that the country experienced after the Icelandic banking crisis of 2008-2011. What is perhaps even more interesting, however, is that this far from the only Nordic country to feature prominently on the list.
Denmark, for example, clocks in as the third happiest country, Norway in in fourth, Finland at number six and Sweden at number eight. All of these countries enjoy above-average per capita incomes, a strong national identity and enviable public services (generally thanks to high taxation – which seems not to have clouded the figures).
Canada takes the fifth position, with New Zealand and Australia rounding off the top ten.
What becomes immediately clear from this “top ten” list is that most of these are not countries known for their balmy climates or sun-kissed beaches. Indeed most would be considered “bracing” at best by visitors. Only Australia offers truly reliable warm weather.
So how have recent worldwide events affected overall happiness? Which countries seem to be getting happier and which ones are seeing a decline?
It should really come as no surprise that the biggest loser over the last few years has been Greece, with all the financial woes that the country has experienced. Many African countries – such as Rwanda, Senegal and South African have also shown sharp declines in happiness levels.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe has seen the second largest increase in happiness out of all the countries studied, so it would be wrong to assume that the whole of Africa is struggling right now. Rounding off the top three largest gains are Nicaragua and Ecuador.
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