The World Happiness Poll results are out for 2019 (2018 Gallup happiness poll); Canada has slipped from 7th place overall to 9th in the World Happiness standings behind first-place Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Norway.

World’s happiest countries

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Norway
  4. Iceland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Switzerland
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Canada
  10. Australia

What makes the Nordic countries of the world so darn happy? Is it because Finland has more saunas per capita than any other nation?

Why are the Danes (former Vikings) so consistently happy? Or their Icelandic distant cousins? Is it Denmark’s tradition of hygge? Hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Cosying up with a loved one for a movie – that’s hygge, too. And there’s nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.

The world’s super power, the United States, ranked only 19th. No other super powers made it into the top 10 rankings, either. The United Kingdom came in 15th place, up from 18th place, while Germany came in 17th place, down from 15th. Japan came in 58th place (down from 54th), Russia came in 68th place (down from 59th) and China came in 93rd place (down from 86th).

Bhutan, the Buddhist kingdom that initiated the Gross National Happiness project only ranked 95th (up two spots from last year) in this year’s report.

People in South Sudan are the most unhappy with their lives, according to the survey of 156 countries, followed by Central African Republic (155), Afghanistan (154), Tanzania (153) and Rwanda (152).

One interesting insight into lagging happiness in the US is due to rising levels of addictions and mental unhappiness. According to economist Jeffrey Sachs, one of the co-authors of the World Happiness report with Canadian economist John Helliwell: “This year’s report provides sobering evidence of how addictions are causing considerable unhappiness and depression in the US. Addictions come in many forms, from substance abuse to gambling to digital media. The compulsive pursuit of substance abuse and addictive behaviours is causing severe unhappiness.”

Who are the happiest Canadians by province?

According to Statistics Canada survey of life satisfaction of Canadians, Quebec ranked #1 in life satisfaction in 2017 followed by Manitoba and then Ontario. Alberta, which has just entered another election cycle, ranked 4th overall with 92.6% of Statistics Canada community health survey respondents saying they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their life. That number was slightly higher in Quebec, with 94.0% of feeling either satisfied or very satisfied with their life.

The truth is Canadians, overall, are very satisfied with life, in general; the gap between #1 Quebec and last place Nova Scotia isn’t that large or statistically significant.

Another key point is that if we were to adjust Canada’s happiness based on a more ethnically diverse population than Finland, Norway or Denmark (which are very homogenous) Canada would like rank #1 in the world. This is because Canada has many newcomers from countries where happiness is much lower; consider for example newcomers from Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria (ranked lowest in the world happiness poll) who experience a significant uplift in their happiness coming to Canada. Previous world happiness studies show that new immigrants to Canada tend to experience higher levels of life satisfaction once they become climatized to Canadian culture.

Our social fabric (multi-cultural nature), our sense of belonging, our respect for diversity and our genuine love (concern for the well-being of the other) makes Canada a special place to call home.

John Helliwell noted in last year’s report that “Although immigrants come from countries with very different levels of happiness, their reported life evaluations converge towards those of other residents in their new countries.” The 2017 World Happiness report found that while income is one of the measures used, the report found that simply moving to a country with higher incomes did not make people happier. Instead, feeling part of the social fabric of a country was more important.

Again, we have a lot of good reasons for Canada to ‘count our blessings’ and that we might just be the happiest nation of them all.

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