In celebration of this year’s International Day of Happiness on Monday 20 March, the World Happiness Report 2017 revealed the world’s happiest and saddest countries. Norway ranked at the top of the list as the happiest country in 2017.
Following Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland make the top 5 of the list. And Rwanda, Syria, Tanzania, Burundi, and Central African Republic make the bottom 5; the world's saddest countries in 2017.
The top four countries are the same ones that held the top four positions in World Happiness Report 2016 Update, with Norway moving up from 4th place to overtake Denmark at the top of the ranking. Denmark is now in 2nd place, while Iceland remains in 3rd, Switzerland is now 4th, and Finland remains in 5th position. Netherlands and Canada have traded places, with Netherlands now 6th, and Canada 7th. The remaining three in the top ten have the same order as in the World Happiness Report 2016 Update, with New Zealand 8th, Australia 9th, and Sweden 10th. In Figure 2.2, the average ladder score differs only by 0.25 points between the top country and the 10th country, and only 0.043 between the 1st and 4th countries.
The 10 countries with the lowest average life evaluations are somewhat different from those in 2016, partly due to some countries returning to the surveyed group—the Central African Republic, for example, and some quite large changes in average ladder scores, up for Togo and Afghanistan, and down for Tanzania, South Sudan, and Yemen. Compared to the top 10 countries in the current ranking, there is a much bigger range of scores covered by the bottom 10 countries.
In February 2017, the United Arab Emirates held a full-day World Happiness meeting, as part of the World Government Summit. Now International Day of Happiness, March 20th, provides a focal point for events spreading the influence of global happiness research. The launch of this report at the United Nations on International Day of Happiness is to be preceded by a World Happiness Summit in Miami, and followed by a three-day meeting on happiness research and policy at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
The main innovation in the World Happiness Report 2017 is the focus on the role of social factors in supporting happiness. Even beyond the effects likely to flow through better health and higher incomes, it is calculated that bringing the social foundations from the lowest levels up to world average levels in 2014-2016 would increase life evaluations by almost two points (1.97). These social foundations effects are together larger than those calculated to follow from the combined effects of bottom to average improvements in both GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy. The effect from the increase in the numbers of people having someone to count on in times of trouble is by itself equal to the happiness effects from the 16-fold increase in average per capita annual incomes required to shift the three poorest countries up to the world average (from about $600 to about $10,000).