Norway First on List of Happiest Countries

    21 March, 2017

    People in Norway are the happiest in the world.

    That finding comes from a report released this week. It shows Norwegians are happier, on average, than people in over 150 countries.

    Over 1,000 individuals were asked to rate their own happiness levels on a scale of 1-to-10. Norwegians had an average happiness rating of 7.537. That is just a little higher than people in Denmark. Danes had a rating of 7.522 in the survey.

    The 2017 World Happiness Report shows the six happiest countries are all in northern Europe. Norway had been the fourth-happiest country last year, while Denmark was rated number one.

    This year, Canada is the seventh happiest, while New Zealand and Australia are in eighth and ninth place.

    Geiranger fjord is one of the most popular tourist sites in Norway.
    Geiranger fjord is one of the most popular tourist sites in Norway.

    A group of social scientists carried out the survey. Their findings were based on a simple question. They asked the subjects to imagine a ladder with 10 steps. The top of the ladder was "the best possible life," and the bottom was the worst.

    Then, the people were asked: "On which step would you say you personally stand at this time?"

    The new report said the least happy country was the Central African Republic, one of the poorest areas in the world.

    Syria was 152nd on the list. The Syrian civil war began over five years ago, and the fighting continues.

    While the study's question is simple, the social scientists worked hard to understand why some people feel happy, and others do not. They decided six factors were partly responsible for one's happiness. The six were: national wealth, life expectancy, honesty in government, freedom to make life choices, generosity and having a strong social network.

    Based on those factors, people in Latin America appeared to be about half a point happier than they should be. But the opposite is true in Asia.

    Meik Wiking directs the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark. He did not mind that Denmark lost its top ranking.

    "I don't think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness," he said. "What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good."

    The United States came in 14th place, with a happiness rating of 6.993. That is one step lower than last year.

    Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University helped write the report. He said there are a number of reasons why Americans are not as happy as before.

    Sachs said the country is becoming meaner. He also thinks the government is becoming more corrupt, and there is less equality among U.S. residents than in the past.

    "It's a long-term trend, and conditions are getting worse," Sachs said.

    I'm Anne Ball.

    Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

    How does your happiness rate compared to other people in your country? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    scale – n. a range of numbers that is used to show the size, strength, or quality of something — usually singular

    factor – n. something that helps produce or influence a result : one of the things that cause something to happen

    generosity – n. the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish : the quality of being generous

    monopoly – n. complete ownership or control of something

    trend – n. a general direction of change : a way of behaving, proceeding, etc., that is developing and becoming more common