Canadians are among the happiest people on the planet, according to a study supported by the United Nations in which Canada ranks sixth.
The study considered a myriad of factors, including life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support, generosity of fellow citizens, state of the economy, perceptions of corruption and the freedom to make life choices.
According to the study, people who live longer tend to also be more productive, earn more and are also better citizens.
In addition, mental health is the single most important determinant of individual happiness; depression and absenteeism comes with huge costs in terms of misery and economic waste.
“Cost-effective treatments exist, but even in advanced countries only a third of those who need it are in treatment,” says the study. “These treatments produce recovery rates of 50 per cent or more, which means the treatments can have low or zero net cost after the savings they generate.”
Futhermore, “people who are emotionally happier, who have more satisfying lives and who live in happier communities, are more likely both now and later to be healthy, productive and socially connected. These benefits in turn flow more broadly to their families, workplaces and communities, to the advantage of all.”
Despite the obvious detrimental happiness impacts of the financial crisis and ongoing political unrest, the world has become a slightly happier and more generous place over the past five years. However, there are some regional patterns of modest gains and significant losses.
Although still relatively unhappy, countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia saw greater levels of happiness due to increased social support. Countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America also saw happiness gains due to a perceived decrease in political and economical corruption.
Not surprisingly, countries experiencing economic turmoil such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal saw some of the greatest declines in happiness. As of this September, Greece recorded an grossly high unemployment rate of 27.6 per cent while Spain is merely a few digits away with an employment rate of 26.3 per cent.
For countries in North Africa and the Middle East, instability under the Arab Spring also created significant happiness losses. Continuing political unrest in Egypt led to the steepest decline in country happiness, followed by Greece and Myanmar.
The United States also fell to 17th, just behind Mexico, due to its troubled economy and high unemployment rate. Canada’s ranking of 6th place also meant a slight slip from its 5th place ranking in the 2012 study.
The countries that led in the rankings were located in Northern Europe with Denmark ranking first, while the countries that came last in the 156 nation study were Rwanda, Burundi and Togo.
The study was published by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network and holds a local Vancouver connection with John Helliwell, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, as one of the report’s co-authors.
World Happiness Report 2013 Rankings (Top 20 of 156)
12. Costa Rica
13. New Zealand
14. United Arab Emirates
17. United States
Image: Canada Place