Where Are the Happiest People in the World?

WORLD

Where are the happiest people in the world? All over, it seems. Happiness is on the rise globally, according to an annual “Happiness Poll” of the citizens of 65 countries. (BBC)

Map the world’s happiness with our MapMaker Interactive.

Teachers, scroll down for a short list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Fijians, like these beautiful people in this beautiful photograph, ranked highest among the 65 nations polled the the annual "Happiness Barometer" conducted by WIN/Gallup. Photograph by Alex Kehr, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Fijians, like these beautiful people in this beautiful photograph, ranked highest among the 65 nations polled the the annual “Happiness Barometer” conducted by WIN/Gallup International.
Photograph by Alex Kehr, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-2.0

Discussion Ideas

  • Consult the annual WIN/Gallup International Global Happiness Survey results. Particularly, look at the results for Question 3: “In general, do you personally feel very happy, happy, neither happy nor unhappy, unhappy, or very unhappy about your life?” Then, map the 10 nations with the “happiest” people—people who responded with either “very happy” or “happy.”
    • Fiji (93%)
    • Colombia (90%)
    • Nigeria (89%)
    • Saudi Arabia (87%)
    • Philippines (86%)
    • Azerbaijan (85%)
    • India (83%)
    • Panama (83%)
    • Argentina (81%)
    • Indonesia (81%)
Your map might look something like this! Experiment with adding different map layers, to see what the happiest (and unhappiest) nations may have in common—income? human footprint? lights at night, often signaling development? energy use? internally displaced people, often signaling unrest? language diversity? Remember: Correlation is not causation!

Your map might look something like this! Experiment with adding different map layers, to see what the happiest (or unhappiest) nations may have in common—income? human footprint? lights at night, often signaling development? energy use? internally displaced people, often signaling unrest? language diversity? Remember: Correlation is not causation!

 

  • This is an excellent poll from a well-respected organization. Still, every poll or survey has its limitations. What are some limiting factors to this poll?
    • The poll surveyed citizens in 65 nations. That is a lot, but there are 193 member states in the General Assembly of the United Nations—interviewing people from more nations would produce a more comprehensive result.
    • The poll surveyed more than 64,000 people. That’s a lot, but interviewing more people would produce a more comprehensive result.
    • People define “happiness” very differently. Although the series of 38 poll questions do a great job of linking optimism, safety, and financial security, it may be impossible to provide a survey nuanced enough to really determine factors associated with happiness, such as contentment, pride, enjoyment . . .

 

  • Administer the poll yourself! Ask your class or school a few of the key questions from the global happiness survey.
    • Do you think 2015 will be better, worse, or the same as 2014?
    • Will 2015 be a year of economic prosperity, economic difficulty, or the same as 2014?
    • In general, do you personally feel very happy, happy, neither happy nor unhappy, unhappy, or very unhappy about your life?
    • Do you think 2015 will be a more peaceful year, freer from international dispute, remain the same, or more international discord?
    • Do you feel elections in your country are free and fair?
    • Which of the following is important to you:
      • your continent
      • your nationality
      • your local county, state, or province
      • your religion
      • your ethnic group
      • none of the above
      • don’t know

 

  • Decide on some demographics, or ways to study the population of people taking your survey. The most popular and easy-to-track demographic categories are probably:
    • age. Are people with November birthdays happier than people with April birthdays? Are freshmen happier than seniors? Are students happier than teachers?
    • gender. Are boys more optimistic than girls?
    • family members. Are students from big families happier than students from smaller households?

 

  • What contributes to your own happiness or optimism?
    • Some popular answers might include:
      • health and safety (for both ourselves and the people we care about)
      • financial security
      • access to a circle of friends
      • access to material goods and services
      • diverse social, academic, financial, and professional opportunities
      • access to online communities
      • social mobility, or the ability to improve our class or social standing
      • political or social freedom, or the ability to safely pursue your interests and values—even if it involves questioning authority
      • access to professional sports or entertainment
These Fijian dancers are happy to celebrate a victory over Tonga in a rugby tournament. Read more about rugby and how it defines the diverse nations dotting the South Pacific here. Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic

These Fijian dancers are happy to celebrate a victory over Tonga in a rugby tournament. (Read more about rugby, culture, and how they help define the diverse nations dotting the South Pacific here.)
Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

BBC: Happiness on the rise globally, survey finds

Nat Geo: Happiest People on Earth? (map)

WIN/Gallup International: END OF YEAR SURVEY 2014: Giving the World a Voice for the 38th time

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