Believe it or not, but the real reason behind a person’s happiness may be that he happens to live in the right place.

According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s 2013 World Happiness Report, the joy factor is highest among people residing in Northern Europe.

In a bid to weigh the level of overall life satisfaction around the world, researchers asked residents of 156 countries to rank their overall satisfaction on the survey’s six happiness metrics (GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity).

Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to the UN Secretary General and co-editor of the report, stated, “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.

“More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development.”

Findings of the survey
The results for the report, collected between 2010 and 2012, showed that many countries exhibited an increase in happiness levels over the five-year study period. However, the most contented people were in Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden, all in northern Europe. In contrast, the least happy were those residing in Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Benin and Togo, all in Africa.

Happiness quotient was in many countries especially Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, but dropped in regions embroiled by economic/political upheavals like Italy, Portugal and Spain, Egypt or Greece. The out-of-10 happiness measurement of Greece fell from 6.326 to 5.435.

U.S. ranks 17th happiest country
The joy sentiment has fallen slightly in the United States! Americans ranked the 17th happiest people but were happier than those in the United Kingdom (ranked 22nd), France (25th) or Japan (43rd), but less contented than residents of Canada (6th), Costa Rica (12th) and Mexico (16th).

According to Sachs, a major reason USA lags behind UN ranking is “a relatively mediocre life expectancy.” Apparently, USA lost points because of perceived declines in “freedom to make life choices,” which might be tied to poverty or unemployment.

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