Canada is the seventh happiest country in the world, according to the 2018 World Happiness Report.
And once again, Nordic countries have swapped positions — this year, it’s Finland’s turn on top.
The country jumped from the fifth spot to take over first place from runner-up Norway, followed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland rounding out the top five, according to the new report, which tracks happiness from 2015 to 2017 and was co-edited by Canadian economist John F. Helliwell.
Some observers have noted that colder-climate countries tend to be well-represented at the top of the list. Helliwell said that may not be a coincidence.
“An occasionally harsh climate is a good way of building the kind of co-operative spirit . . . and in fact makes people happy to co-operate with each other in protecting and making life work,” he told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
Helliwell said, in Canada, that sense of community is more pronounced away from the country’s large urban centres.
“We think that is because it’s harder in the big cities to develop that sense of community, knowing and trusting your neighbours and your shopkeepers and so on,” he said. “A happy life is built on that.”
The top 10 countries are the same as the last two years with some exchanging of spots. Helliwell said Canada has ranked between fourth and seventh since the annual report was first published six years ago.
“It’s not surprising Canada is in the top ten,” he said. “Canada is a bit of a beacon and it is in very good company.”
The United States dropped to 18 after falling from 13 to 14 last year. Helliwell pointed to a worsening health crisis and “declining social capital” relative to other countries on the list.
The biggest gainer was Togo in West Africa, which was the least happy country in 2015 but now lands 17 places higher. Burundi in East Africa ranked last out of all 156 on the list.
The rankings are based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy and respondents’ own perception of their happiness based on global survey results in which people ranked from 1-10 their level of social support in times of need, their freedom of choice, how corrupt their society is and how generous they are. Because each of the top countries have such high values for each of those variables, it is expected that their positions will swap year to year.
This year’s report is the first to also evaluate the countries where immigrants are happiest. Canada fared even better by that measurement, coming in fourth for most-accepting countries for migrants.
“Although immigrants come from countries with very different levels of happiness, their reported life evaluations converge towards those of other residents in their new countries,” said Helliwell in a press release.
Just like the happiness of those born locally, immigrant happiness is about more than money and instead depends on “a range of features of the social fabric, extending far beyond the higher incomes traditionally thought to inspire and reward migration,” the report reads. Income is of course taken into account, but the report found that there is no gain in happiness from moving to a higher income country.
“The countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries, but instead the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives,” the report continues.
Immigrants are about as happy as people born in their new country, with the difference being under 0.1 point out of 10, the report says. An immigrant’s happiness depends not just on the happiness of locals but also on the happiness of where they emigrated from, and how accepting locals are of immigrants.
Read the top 20 happiest countries below:
8. New Zealand
13. Costa Rica
18. United States
19. United Kingdom
20. United Arab Emirates