SmilesArticle Summary:

The United Nations World Happiness Report shows that while the US has become richer over the last two years, it has become less happy. As expected, countries experiencing hardships like Greece and Egypt showed the biggest drop in happiness. Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden ranked as the happiest countries while many African countries found themselves ranked among the world’s least happy countries.

The article reveals that while the overall political and economic state of a country has a large impact on the happiness of the populous, factors other than GDP also have a significant effect. The study recommends countries invest in mental health and public services as well as economic growth to create happier, more desirable countries.

The survey looked at six indicators for happiness:

1. GDP per head
2. Healthy life expectancy
3. Having someone to count on
4. Perceived freedom to make life choices
5. Freedom from corruption
6. Prevalence of generosity

Each country and each culture has different values, but because this survey was based on six very well defined criteria, it pre-defines what makes people happy. Thus, the results are biased towards a certain outlook on happiness.

The report suggests countries align their priorities with happiness indicators, instead of the more traditional economic indicators. This includes spending more money on mental health programs, since mental state is so closely tied to happiness. Aligning policy goals with happiness objectives serves a country because happier people are healthier and more productive. It’s interesting that this is the opposite of what’s being done. To make people happier, governments are trying to make people richer instead of just focusing on what makes them happier.


Article Reference: The 10 Happiest Countries In The World, And Why We’re Not One Of them – Ben Schiller – Fast Company – September 10, 2013 –


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Comments (15)

  1. Hiago Alves Correa


    Money can solve many problems in the life of a person. However, this is not enough for happiness. Besides the USA, another rich country that is out of this list is Japan. Japanese people receive high salaries but live in a stressful environment because of the pressure that the society imposes for them. The Japanese government should encourage companies to reduce the hourly load of workers, so they could spend more time with their families. This measure would increase the level of happiness of them.

  2. Andy Shriver


    I found this short article to be thought provoking, especially in light of our nation’s emphasis on monetary wealth as an indicator of happiness. It is no surprise to see that the U.S. did not make the top ten on this list due to our overzealous obsession with material and financial status (perception of what creates happiness). Consider recent studies showing diminishing returns on happiness after income surpasses ~$80,000. Our culture values money as a huge incentive for people but at the end of the day it can only make us so happy. Our perception of happiness is often not aligned with what truly make us content in life.

    To an extent I think the survey is a general indicator of happiness (think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), however I don’t think six questions can fully sum up this concept, especially due to differing cultural norms and expectations. The lack of information here makes me weary of the actual validity of the claims made but in general I think there is some truth to it.

  3. Anthony Freitas de Oliveira


    Definitely money is not the major criteria that brings happy for our life, but it does a good portion of the job especially regarding the ability of people to afford a good health care service, education and entertainment. Additionally I think the freedom from corruption is the harder thing to get because corruption happens everywhere no matter if the country is poor or rich and it is very hard to extinguish it.

  4. Haitham


    Money and being rich is not the way to be happy. Happiness is all in out minds and the way we think and know what is more important than other things. Happiness is about doing the things we love and being around our loved one, it is not about how much money we have. Poor people are known to happier that rich people. We need to set our minds in what we can do and what we can reach.

  5. Jesse St. Amand


    The article is written in a way which suggests that “government” has overlooked citizens’ happiness in place of economic goals. Yet in the US, government officials are only elected because of their favorable policies. The economy becomes prioritized because it offers happiness in forms of wealth and security. In a sense, the poll takers assume that they better know what will make a person happy than the individuals themselves. It advises that “countries align their priorities with happiness indicators, instead of the more traditional economic indicators.” Yet how does one reasonably create policy for such a factor as “having someone to count on”? I do believe that happiness extends beyond the economy, but the proposed solution does not seem entirely reasonable.

  6. Juan Mora


    Having a predefined mechanism for determining happiness is an unreliable method that is used in this article. It would be hard-pressed to quantify happiness. There are differences in what make people happy, and this too makes it difficult to rank the “happiness” of a country.

  7. Ethan Roy


    America is a materialistic country. The perception of being successful has changed from being able to support a family to getting to the top at whatever cost. Americans are primarily greedy and selfish, its human nature. When everyone is acting this way then it becomes the norm. Money is not evil, but the love of money is the root of all evil. I don’t think that we can ever be satisfied with what we have because we are impulsive and always will want more as long as it is available to someone else.

  8. Joe Zurek


    This article brings up the discussion in class on alignment and incentives. If a country’s peoples desires are not in line with the desires chosen to measure happiness than that country will never be perceived as happy. Even if they are in fact happy, the government will try to incentivize its people to gain strength in the pre-chosen parameters. This will begin a downward spiraling vortex of further unhappiness when the people are forced into ideas they do not believe.

  9. Rikin Patel


    Although the argument that Americans have created a general conscious of always wanting more or have surrounded themselves with false and negative information from media, can we really accurately compare the happiness of this country of over 300 million individuals with a country of less than 10 million happy individuals? With increased population comes increased corruption, poverty, and all other follies of human behavior. How can there be a possible fairness for this scale?

  10. Isaac Martinez


    One approach I would like to take in evaluating this particular article may vary slightly from my peers. Americans have grown accustomed to what I would like to call “information over load”; let’s be honest, most of the information we are constantly being bombarded with is not in any way shape or form positive or educational. And let’s face it, Americans watch an exorbitant amount of television, surf the web, read the paper and pay attention to any other unreliable source of quasi news that exists in the media. We are what we insert into our bodies, this includes what we insert into our minds as well; we may not be completely aware of it, but we subconsciously embody and personify what we are being bombarded with. So perhaps the constant (improper) information we subject ourselves to could have an effect on why we are so potentially “unhappy”.

  11. Teja Reddy


    This article states that money is not a primary element through which happiness of a country is calculated, happiness of a country does not depend on its GDP and wealth because each individual person is an element of that country so overall aspects like health care, and others should be considered so that we can look at all the aspects. “Health is always better than wealth”, this quote explains all. So any country with less conflicts and overall freedom can really be an happy country.

  12. Saransh Noel Prasad


    It is not just the personal wealth that one needs to look at to be happy, if such is the case then one will never be happy. Rather it is the quality of life that counts a lot in establishing how happy and content one is with their lives. If the point 2 through 6 are reflecting the quality of life. As one does not have to worry about trying to figure out how and what to do about points 2 through 5 as stated above the person tends to be more informed and life is a simpler event which in a way can be stated as a happier existence. This supports theorem no 22 of IMT which states that the more the information a person perceives the simpler the event is otherwise its a complicated mess.

  13. Branden Lau


    This article can relate to the lecture on incentives. I think that people will be most happy when they have the freedom and ability to do what they truly love. When financial incentives are taken into consideration, it not only hinders people’s creativity, but it also shifts people’s interests from pure passion to the financial reward. In effect, the added financial incentive detracts people from doing what they love.

  14. Scott Bohmke


    This may also stem from the fact that many Americans are not satisfied with what they have. They are always looking for the next thing, and worried about the future, than appreciating the present and being happy today. So yes, while these factors (such as mental health) probably do have a huge impact on a country’s well-being, a country’s outlook on life, and how they understand time, is much more difficult to quantify but probably plays a large role.

  15. Allison Baker


    I like this article because it addresses a common misconception that money will make people happier. Although this may certainly be true in some aspects (such as enabling someone to afford education for something they have always wanted to study, or allowing them to live comfortably whilst working their dream job), it is definitely not the sole contributor to happiness. I think it would be interesting to speak with people from the “happiest” countries and the “unhappiest” countries to see what they are doing.

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