Where are the World’s Happiest Countries?


Well, it helps to be in Western Europe . . . (CNN)

Map the world’s happiest (and unhappiest) countries with today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

Behold, citizens of the world’s happiest country. Photograph by Maynard Owen Williams, National Geographic

Behold, citizens of the world’s happiest country.
Photograph by Maynard Owen Williams, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • The World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries in seven major areas of happiness or “subjective well-being.” How do the authors of the new report define happiness or “subjective well-being”?
    • The researchers borrow definitions from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to the OECD, “Subjective well-being encompasses three different aspects:
      • cognitive evaluations of one’s life
      • positive emotions (joy, pride)
      • negative emotions (pain, anger, worry)


  • What is per-capita GDP?
    • Per capita GDP is a measure of the total output of a country that takes the gross domestic product (GDP) and divides it by the number of people in the country.
      • Per capita GDP is sometimes used as an indicator of standard of living as well as economic output, with higher per capita GDP being interpreted as having a higher standard of living.



  • What is “social support”?
    • Social support is having someone to rely on in times of trouble. Researchers measured a country’s social support by evaluating answers to this question: “If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?”


  • What is “freedom to make life choices”?
    • Researchers measured a country’s freedom by evaluating answers to this question: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?”


  • What is “generosity”?
    • Researchers measured generosity by evaluating a country’s per-capita GDP and the answer to this question: “Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?”


  • What is “perception of corruption”?
    • Researchers measured the perception of overall corruption by evaluating answers to two questions: “Is corruption widespread throughout the government or not” and “Is corruption widespread within businesses or not?”


  • What are “positive and negative affects”?
    • Positive affect measures the general happiness, laughter, and enjoyment over more than one interview.
    • Negative affect measures the general worry, sadness, and anger over more than one interview.


  • The new report also measured the “equality of happiness” or “distribution of happiness.” What is this?
    • The equality of happiness (called the “Standard Deviation of Happiness” in the report) describes the distribution of happiness within a country, factored by variables such as health, income, education, freedom, and justice.
      • “Just as happiness provides a broader measure of well-being than separate accountings of income, health status, and the quality of the social context, we find that inequality of well-being provides a broader measure of inequality than measures focusing on the distribution of income and wealth.”


  • What is the intended outcome of this report?
    • Authors hope the report might influence governments and non-governmental organizations to invest in social and financial policies that encourage factors that correlate to happiness. For instance, the authors suggest that reducing inequality and promoting sustainable development correlate to a country’s or region’s happiness.
    • Four governments have already appointed Ministers of Happiness to develop, manage, and advocate for policies influencing what Bhutan evaluates as “gross national happiness”: Bhutan, Ecuador, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.



CNN: Where are the world’s happiest countries?

Nat Geo: Where are the world’s happiest—and unhappiest—countries? MapMaker Interactive map

(extra credit!) World Happiness Report 2016

2 responses to “Where are the World’s Happiest Countries?

  1. Pingback: What Did You Read in 2017? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: 11 Things We Learned This Week! | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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