NEW YORK CITY – The world is slightly happier now than it was five years ago, concludes the recently released World Happiness Report 2013, sponsored by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN). And, of all the regions of the world, Latin America and the Caribbean have had the most significant happiness gains, with a population-weighted average increase of 7 percent.
What makes these regions so special? According to the report, those in Latin America and the Caribbean might be happier now because they earn more money than five years ago, they perceive much less corruption in government and business (the largest reduction of all regions), and they feel they have more freedom to make life choices.
Others believe that Latin Americans are simply a happy people overall. A Gallup poll released last year, for example, concluded that Latin Americans are the most positive people in the world, with residents in Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador and Venezuela topping the world’s happiness rankings. Academics were quick to point out, however, that Latin Americans have a cultural proclivity to avoid negative statements regardless of how they feel.
To avoid this bias, the World Happiness Report takes into account evaluations of life as a whole – not just the tendency to express positive emotions – by posing the following question to its respondents: evaluate your life as a ladder, with the best possible life for you as a 10, and the worst possible life as a 0. The results indicate that while those in Latin America and the Caribbean have made the most significant gains in perceptions of well-being, overall, the happiest countries continue to be the Nordic nations, followed by Canada, Austria, and Australia.
With its World Happiness Report 2013, the United Nations continues to cement the notion that governments should be more concerned about the well-being of their citizens than pure economic growth. Although the idea began to gain traction just in the last decade, notable decision-makers such as David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye have agreed that measuring Gross National Happiness could be more useful for measuring progress than the traditional GDP.
Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, co-editor of the World Happiness Report 2013, has also swayed many in this direction as the world ponders on what the post-2015 development goals should look like.
“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” he said.
– Nayomi Chibana
Sources: United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Gallup World, CBS News
Photo: Dominica Vibes