Happiness Around the World

Starting 2012, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network gauges happiness level around the world. The researchers ask people to answer a question specifically designed to capture non-ephemeral thoughtful reflections about life, the Cantrill Ladder question. Here it is:

“Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?"

Happiness Rankings

In 2016, Finland turned out to be the happiest country in the world (and no, it doesn't top the global suicide rating). For the past three years, Scandinavian countries have been consistently the most happy.

Choose year; hover over a bar to see rank and happiness score.

Can we Predict Happiness?

The short answer would be "to some extent." As UN researchers found, about 3/4 of the subjective happiness score can be explained with these six factors. Click on a tile to see how the factor correlates with the happiness score, both globally and for each country over time. Some of the factors exhibit a direct strong correlation with the happiness score, others have a weaker correlation.

All Factors in One Plot

Paraphrasing Leo Tolstoy, happy countries are all alike; every unhappy country is unhappy in its own way. This parallel coordinates chart demonstrates that happy countries usually have many things in common: high GDP per capita, good social support score, high healthy life expectancy at birth and lots of freedom to make life choices. Not happy countries, though, are not that uniform. Instead of residing at the bottom of all the axes, as one might expect, they often combine good, average and bad scores.

0 means no data. To explore: hover over a line, click and double click a label, drag around axis to brush (one click on axis will clear brushing). The table with exact values for the selected countries will appear below.

Not All Factors are Created Equal

In an attempt to calculate the exact contribution to the happiness score of each of the six factors, UN researchers applied a regression model to the several years of data and found that each of these factors has its own "weight". They call this weight a regression coefficient, and it works as a multiplier by which a given factor's value is to be multiplied to partially explain the happiness score. For example, the coefficient for social support is higher than the one for GDP. That means investing in social support can have a bigger impact on happiness than investing in GDP growth, all things being equal.

Let's Make America Happy Again!

If you want to make a certain country happier, you can increase its GDP, or, sometimes more efficiently, enhance social support, fight corruption, and allow for more personal freedoms. In the chart below, you can see how much the United States lost in happiness score over the past ten years. UN researchers think, decrease in four of the six happiness factors is here to blame. You can restore some of the happiness! Just click on the icons below the chart and see it change.