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Considering The World Happiness Report

At first, it seemed weirdly coincidental that I started writing a post about “happiness” on March 20th, the "International Day of Happiness". But, it actually makes perfect sense that that's the day “The World Happiness Report” came out. The annual report shares some interesting insights on the current state of happiness worldwide. The report comes from a partnership among Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the World Happiness Report's Editorial Board. 

Gallup's World Poll data on life evaluations are the primary source behind the annual happiness rankings. Per Gallup:

The report assesses the current state of happiness worldwide and explores how the field of happiness science illuminates the differences in happiness levels on an individual and national scale. The 2024 edition focuses on the happiness of people at different stages of life.

Here are a few of the report's big findings:

  • At the global level, averaged across all ages and regions, inequality of happiness has increased by more than 20% over the past dozen years. Since 2006-10, the inequality of happiness has increased in every region except Europe. The report shares that happiness fell in South Asia in all age groups. It also fell in North America, especially among younger people. In the Middle East and North Africa, happiness fell among all age groups. 
  • 1980 is a big inflection point: Among those born after 1980, happiness falls with each year of age. Among those born before 1965, life evaluations rise with age. When it comes to people aged 30 and below, the United States seems to really be struggling and sits at 62nd in the rankings. However, when looking at people age 60 and above, the U.S. sits at 10th. Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Spain are countries where the old are now significantly happier than the young, while Portugal and Greece show the reverse pattern. For a summary on happiness and age, go here.
  • On a 10-point scale, Finland's average life evaluation ranks it as the happiest country in the world. Afghanistan ranks as the least happy country in the world with a life evaluation of 1.721. For a list of the country rankings, go here.

Here is a look at the Top 10 Happiest Countries:

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Sweden
  5. Israel
  6. Netherlands
  7. Norway
  8. Luxembourg
  9. Switzerland
  10. Australia

According to the report, the top 10 countries have remained pretty much the same since before COVID. Ranks 11-20 have had more change, with the transition countries of Eastern Europe rising in happiness (especially the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Slovenia). Additionally, Costa Rica and Kuwait joined the top 20. As for big drops, the United States and Germany have fallen to 23 (from 15th last year) and 24 (from 16 last year) in the rankings. 

In the United States, according to WalletHub's data, Fremont, California is the happiest city in the country. This particular study noted that key ingredients to happiness include a positive mental state, healthy body, strong social connections, job satisfaction, and financial well-being. WalletHub looked at more than 180 of the largest U.S. cities in America. They examined each city based on 29 key indicators of happiness, ranging from the depression rate, to the income-growth rate, to average leisure time spent per day. 7 of the top 20 happiest cities in the U.S. are in California. 

We also have included links to a couple of related resources below: 

What can we learn from the happiest country on earth? from The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos.

An alternative happiness report? Global Happiness 2024: The new edition of Ipsos’ Global Happiness report finds there’s been a slight dip in happiness year-on-year as economic and political clouds loom overhead. Looks like the Netherlands wins in this one!

In this issue of the World Happiness Report we focus on the happiness of people at different stages of life. In the seven ages of man in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the later stages of life are portrayed as deeply depressing. But happiness research shows a more nuanced picture, and one that is changing over time. We encourage you to explore the 2024 report for the latest findings on the happiness of the world’s young, the old – and everyone in between.


global mobility, talent, happiness, culture, environment, quality of life, report, gallup, oxford wellbeing research centre, life evaluation, countries, global, ranking, ipsos, finland, netherlands