World’s happiest: Philippines ranks 82nd

Charmie Joy Pagulong - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is the 82nd happiest place out of 157 economies, according to a report released yesterday by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

The report, which urged nations, regardless of wealth, to tackle inequality and the environment, showed the Philippines as a happy place to live in, one notch higher than China.

The top 10 this year were Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

The United States came in at 13th, followed by the United Kingdom at 23rd; France, 32nd, and Italy, 50th.

Syria, Afghanistan and eight sub-Saharan countries are the 10 least happy places on earth to live, the report said.

The bottom 10 countries were Madagascar, Tanzania, Liberia, Guinea, Rwanda, Benin, Afghanistan, Togo, Syria and Burundi.

In Asia, Singapore (22nd) was categorized as the happiest country to live in, followed by Thailand (33rd), Taiwan (35th), Malaysia (47th), Japan (53rd) Hong Kong (75th) and Indonesia (79th).

“There is a strong message for my country, the United States, which is very rich, has gotten a lot richer over the last 50 years, but has gotten no happier,” said Jeffrey Sachs, head of the SDSN and special advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

While the differences between countries where people are happy and those where they are not could be scientifically measured, “we can understand why and do something about it,” Sachs, one of the report’s authors, told Reuters in an interview in Rome.

“The message for the United States is clear. For a society that just chases money, we are chasing the wrong things. Our social fabric is deteriorating, social trust is deteriorating, faith in government is deteriorating,” he said.

The report, now in its fourth edition, ranked 157 countries by happiness levels using factors such as per capita gross domestic product and healthy years of life expectancy.

It also rated “having someone to count on in times of trouble” and freedom from corruption in government and business.

“When countries single-mindedly pursue individual objectives, such as economic development to the neglect of social and environmental objectives, the results can be highly adverse for human wellbeing, even dangerous for survival,” it said.

“Many countries in recent years have achieved economic growth at the cost of sharply rising inequality, entrenched social exclusion, and grave damage to the natural environment.”

Yardstick of happiness

The first report was issued in 2012 to support a United Nations meeting on happiness and well being.

Five countries – Bhutan, Ecuador, Scotland, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela – now have appointed ministers charged with promoting happiness as a goal of public policy.

The 2016 survey showed that three countries – Ireland, Iceland and Japan – were able to maintain their happiness levels, despite external shocks such as the post-2007 economic crisis and the 2011 earthquake, because of social support and solidarity.

Sachs cited Costa Rica, which ranked 14th, ahead of many wealthier countries, as an example of a healthy, happy society, although it is not an economic powerhouse.

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