Finland still the happiest for 7th consecutive year, US exits top 20 list, India retains 126th spot

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Finland once again topped the World Happiness ranking, this year, maintaining its lead for the seventh consecutive time. The World Happiness Report (WHR) -2024 released on Wednesday, revealed all five Nordic countries making it to the top 10 happiness index. Denmark secured second spot in the ranking. Iceland, Sweden and Israel secured third, fourth and fifth spots. Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Australia managed to secure the remaining five positions in the top 10 list.

Overall Rankings

From 11th to 20th position in the list, there is more change, with the transition countries of Eastern Europe rising in happiness (especially Czechia, Lithuania and Slovenia). Partly for this reason the United States and Germany have fallen to 23 and 24 spots in the rankings.

Happiness by age group

In many but not all regions, the young are happier than the old. But in North America happiness has fallen so sharply for the young that they are now less happy than the old. By contrast, in the transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the young are much happier than the old. In Western Europe as a whole, happiness is similar at all ages, while elsewhere it tends to decline over the life cycle (with an occasional upturn for the old).

India continues on 126th spot for second consecutive year

In the report published by Canadian economist John F Helliwell, Richard Layard, Jeffery Sachs, Jan Emmanuel De Neve, Lara B Aknin, & Shun Wang, India stood at 126th spot, the same as last year much below neighbouring countries of Nepal (93), Pakistan (108), Myanmar (118) and China (60). Even strife torn Ukraine managed to be at 105 position.

The report focuses on India, the first such attempt in the World Happiness Report. It stresses that in India, the world’s most populous country, with a rapidly growing elder share, happiness rises into old age, more so for men than women.

Differences in Life Satisfaction among Older Adults in India

Older age is associated with higher life satisfaction in India, refuting some claims that the positive association between age and life satisfaction only exists in high-income nations. However, older women in India report lower life satisfaction than older men.

Older adults with secondary or higher education and those of higher social castes report higher life satisfaction than counterparts without formal education and those from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Satisfaction with living arrangements, perceived discrimination, and self-rated health emerged as the top three predictors of life satisfaction.

Overall ranking of happiness

The biggest change this year is within the top 20. There are two new entrants, Costa Rica and Kuwait at 12 and 13. Coupled with the continuing convergence between the two halves of Europe, with Czechia, Lithuania and Slovenia at positions 18, 19 and 21, have contributed to the fall of the United States and Germany from 15 and 16 last year to 23 and 24 this year.
The top 10 have remained fairly stable, with Finland still in first position, although now followed more closely by Denmark. All of the top 10 countries, except for Australia and the Netherlands, have populations less than 15 million, while in the top twenty, only Canada and the United Kingdom have populations over 30 million.

Rankings by age group

Rankings differ a lot for the young and the old. In some cases these favour the old, as in the United States and Canada, where the rankings for those aged 60 and older are 50 or more places higher than for those under 30. In other cases, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, the reverse is true, with many rankings being more than 40 places higher for the young than for the old.

Changes in happiness overall and by age group

From 2006-2010 to 2021-2023 changes in overall happiness varied greatly from country to country, ranging from increases as large as 1.8 points (Serbia) to decreases as large as 2.6 points (Afghanistan).

Life satisfaction drops from childhood through adolescence into adulthood

Globally, adolescents aged 15-24 report higher life satisfaction than adults aged 25 or above, but the gap is narrowing in Western Europe and recently reversed in North America and Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) due to negative trends for young people. Conversely, the gap is widening in Sub-Saharan Africa due to increasing life satisfaction among the youth.

In middle-to-late adolescence (age 15-24), there was a positive 2006-2019 global trend in
life satisfaction, which ended with the pandemic, in line with adult trends.

Global trends obscure regional variations, some of which differ from adult trends. Negative
trends between 2006 and 2022 at age 15-24 are found in North America and ANZ, Western
Europe, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and South Asia, and positive trends in
Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia.

In early-to-middle adolescence (age 10-15) global well-being data was lacking, with many
world regions having no available information. Evidence primarily from high-income countries indicates significant life satisfaction declines post-COVID-19, especially among females, contrasting with East Asian countries, where life satisfaction increased. There is mixed evidence regarding pre-pandemic trends.

Females start reporting lower life satisfaction than males by around age 12. This gap widens at ages 13 and 15, and the pandemic has amplified these inequalities. These patterns are primarily observed in high-income countries due to limited data worldwide. In contrast, global data for middle-to-late adolescence (age 15-24) shows no global gender differences from 2006 until 2013, but from 2014, females began reporting higher life satisfaction than males, although the gap has narrowed following the pandemic. This global gender gap masks regional differences, and is more pronounced in lower-income countries, with no gender differences observed in high-income countries.
Life satisfaction levels, trends and correlates vary across age, gender, world regions and
countries, and economic development levels. This underscores the importance of addressing current data gaps to enhance our understanding of child and adolescent well-being and how to promote it globally.

Emotions weigh heavy at different ages

In 2021-2023 negative emotions were in every region more prevalent for females than males, with almost everywhere the gender gap being larger at higher ages. The exception to this global pattern is provided by the small group of countries that includes the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where females under 30 have one-third more negative emotions than males, a gap that is smaller at higher ages.
Negative emotions have been found to be more frequent now than in 2006-2010 everywhere except East Asia and both parts of Europe. In Central and Eastern Europe, in contrast to the rest of the world, but consistently with the happiness convergence taking place within Europe, negative emotions are now less frequent in all age groups than they were in 2006-2010.
Positive emotions have not changed much, while still remaining more frequent for the young than for older age groups.

World Happiness Ranking

Ranking Country
1 Finland
2 Denmark
3 Iceland
4 Sweden
5 Israel
6 Netherlands
7 Norway
8 Luxembourg
9 Switzerland
10 Australia
11 New Zealand
12 Costa Rica
13 Kuwait
14 Austria
15 Canada
16 Belgium
17 Ireland
18 Czechia
19 Lithuania
20 United Kingdom

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