The Czech Republic is rising in happiness

A report from the UN shows gains in Central and Eastern Europe

The Czech Republic came in at number 23 in the 2017 ranking of happiness issued by the UN, rising from 27th place in the previous report. The report was released on World Happiness Day, which is March 20.

Northern Europe dominated the top 10, with Norway, Denmark and Iceland taking the top three spots. Switzerland broke the streak, coming in fourth, while Finland was fifth, the Netherlands was sixth and Sweden was 10th. The rest of the top 10 was made of English-speaking countries, with Canada seventh, New Zealand eighth and Australia ninth. The United States though was 14th and the United Kingdom was 19th.

Africa dominated the bottom of the chart, with the Central African Republic in last place at 155th, followed by Burundi and Tanzania. Syria was fourth from the bottom.

The first World Happiness Report was published in April 2012. “Since then the world has come a long way. Increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy,” the report summary said. Some of the report is subjective, asking people to rank how good their life is. Other factors such as economic strength, social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice, generosity and perceived corruption are also weighed.

There are also large differences within countries, and income inequality is not the biggest factor. Differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships can be more important.

“Norway has jumped from fourth place in 2016 to first place this year. … All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance,” the report states, adding that the country has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies.

Countries in Central and Eastern Europe were among those showing the biggest jumps, with 12 showing significant gains and one showing loss. “In Central and Eastern Europe and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region we find that about 90 percent of senior professionals report being satisfied with their job whereas this number drops to little over 60 percent for workers in the farming, fishing, or forestry industries. No such large differentials in job satisfaction are found in Western Europe or North America, Australia, and New Zealand,” the report states.

Happiness has been falling in the United States, and it was at 14th place in the chart. The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption. “It is these same factors that explain why the Nordic countries do so much better,” the report summary states.

The full report goes into more detail: “The United States offers a vivid portrait of a country that is looking for happiness 'in all the wrong places.' The country is mired in a roiling social crisis that is getting worse,” the report states.

The UN said that paying more attention to happiness should be part of our efforts to achieve both human and sustainable development.

You can read the full report here: worldhappiness.report.

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