“As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,” commented Professor John F. Helliwell, of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. “Countries with strong social and institutional capital not only support greater well-being, but are more resilient to social and economic crises.”
As previous reports have done, The World Happiness Report 2015 reveals trends in the data judging just how happy countries really are. On a scale running from 0 to 10, people in over 150 countries, surveyed by Gallup over the period 2012-15, reveal an average score of 5.1 (out of 10). Six key variables explain three-quarters of the variation in annual national average scores over time and among countries: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity. 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,”Professor Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance. “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.”
The World Happiness Report 2015 shows that at both the individual and national levels, all measures of well-being, including emotions and life evaluations, are strongly influenced by the quality of the surrounding social norms and institutions. These include 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 report also demonstrates that a key national challenge is to ensure that policies are designed and delivered in ways that enrich the social fabric, and teach the power of empathy to current and future generations. Under the pressures of putting right what is obviously wrong, there is often too little attention paid to building the vital social fabric. According to the report, paying greater attention to the levels and sources of subjective well-being has helped us to reach these conclusions, and to recommend making and keeping happiness as a central focus for research, policy and practice.