A new report shows that citizens in Switzerland are among the happiest in the world. [Photo: Bigstock]

Global sustainability is dependent on a happy citizens

27 April, 2015

Natural Health News —The well-being and happiness of society are critical indicators of a nation’s economic and social development, and should be a key aim for policymakers, according to a new report.

The first World Happiness Report, released in 2012 ahead of the UN high-level meeting on Happiness and Well-being, drew international attention as a landmark first survey of the state of global happiness. The World Happiness Report 2015 digs even deeper into the data and looks at the changes in happiness levels in 158 countries, and examines the reasons behind the statistics.

This latest report also comes in a watershed for global citizens, with the pending adoption by UN member states of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September to help guide the world community towards a more inclusive and sustainable pattern of global development. The authors believe their work offers world leaders crucial information on how to shape a happier, healthier society.

What you need to know

» When formulating public policy, taking citizen happiness into account is crucial

» Countries with the happiest citizens are also more sustainable and resilient in times of economic and social crisis.

» Strong social ties to family and community are key elements in life-long happiness.

» Ensuring children’s happiness is a key step towards future wellbeing and sustainability.

“The aspiration of society is the flourishing of its members,” said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University. “This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being. It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health. The evidence here will be useful to all countries as they pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals.”

The importance of quality of life

The report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), contains analysis from leading experts in the fields of economics, neuroscience, national statistics, and describes how measurements of subjective well-being can be used effectively to assess national progress. It also identifies the countries with the highest levels of happiness as being:

1. Switzerland
2. Iceland
3. Denmark
4. Norway
5. Canada

“As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,” said Professor John F. Helliwell, of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, one of the editors of the report. “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put well-being first. Countries with strong social and institutional capital not only support greater well-being, but are more resilient to social and economic crises.”

Happy children become happy adults

Where does your country come in the happiness chart? (Click to enlarge)

This year for the first time ever, the Report breaks down the data by gender, age, and region. It finds striking differences, some much larger than have previously been found.”A positive outlook during the early stages of life is inherently desirable, but it also lays the foundation for greater happiness during adulthood,” said Layard. “As we consider the value of happiness in today’s report, we must invest early on in the lives of our children so that they grow to become independent, productive and happy adults, contributing both socially and economically.”

Our happiness say the researchers is also strongly influenced by our social environment including family and friendships at the individual level, the presence of trust and empathy at the neighborhood and community levels, and power and quality of the over-arching social norms that determine the quality of life within and among nations and generations. When these social factors are well-rooted and readily available, communities and nations are more resilient.

The authors urge politicians and policymakers to take the importance of these factors seriously when formulating policies for change.