Denmark reclaims its place as the world's happiest country

17 March 2016

Denmark had reclaimed its place as the world's happiest country, while Burundi ranked as the least happy nation, according to the fourth World Happiness Report, released yesterday.

According to the report, inequality was strongly associated with unhappiness, a stark reminder for rich countries like the US, where along with rising disparities in income, political and social discontent too were on the rise.

Denmark took the top spot in the first report, in 2012, and again in 2013, but was displaced by Switzerland last year. Denmark was back at No1 in the ranking this year, followed by Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. Most were fairly homogenous nations  having strong social safety nets.

Burundi, which saw a violent political crisis last year, stood at the bottom of the list of over 150 countries. Syria, Togo, Afghanistan, Benin, Rwanda, Guinea, Liberia, Tanzania and Madagascar were placed higher than Burundi with all of the nations being poor, and many had been destabilised by war, disease or both.

Of the most populous nations, China, stood at No 83, India at No 118, the US at No 13, Indonesia at No 79, Brazil at No 17. Pakistan stood at No 92, Nigeria at No 103, Bangladesh at No 110, Russia at No 56, Japan at No 53 and Mexico at No 21. The US was up two spots, from No 15 in 2015.

For the first time this year, the report included a ranking of happiness inequality what could be called the well-being gap, rather than the income gap - within different countries. The US took the 85th slot of 157 countries, between Chile and Slovenia in this measure.

"Attention has been almost entirely focused on the nature and consequences of economic equality," the report's authors write. "Would it not be helpful to have a measure of distribution that has some capacity to bring the different facets of inequality together, and to assess their joint consequences?"

The report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and included leaders from academia, government and the private sector, was launched by the  UN in 2012. The SDSN, however, is independent of the UN and bases its rankings on surveys by the Gallup World Poll as well as analysing how six variables - such as GDP per capita or healthy life expectancy, helped explain each country's score.

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