Switzerland has been named the happiest country in the world, according to the 2015 World Happiness Report.
In the report, Nordic countries landed high in the rankings, taking five of the top eight spots, while the United States gained two spots since the last report, coming in at 15th, one spot behind Mexico. Canada took fifth place overall.
Meanwhile, African countries generally ranked lower, taking 17 of the bottom 20 spots. The unhappiest country in the world was identified as Togo, followed by Burundi and Syria.
Produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an independent group launched by the United Nations in 2012, the report looked at surveys by Gallup World Poll from 2012 to 2014 and took into account GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, perceptions of corruption, and generosity. New editions of the report are released every 18 months.
GDP per capita was found to be the most important factor in assessing happiness, accounting for as much as one-third of the difference between the 10 happiest and 10 unhappiest countries. The top 10 countries enjoy a GDP per capita that is 25 times higher than for the bottom 25 countries, according to the report. Low levels of inequality as well as a strong social safety net were also strongly correlated with higher levels of happiness.
The report also looked at changes in happiness since the 2008 global recession. Comparing poll results from 2005 to 2007 with those from 2012 to 2014, the report found that Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, and Ecuador saw the biggest increase in happiness, while Italy, Egypt, and Greece declined the furthest. Canada and the United States experienced a negligible decreases during that time. The report highlighted high degrees of social capital as an indicator to how well a country can weather an economic shock or natural disaster.
Despite the quality and quantity of the data in the World Happiness Report and the in-depth analysis of that data, other happy countries may dispute its findings. In the past year, Paraguay, Brazil, and Costa Rica have all been named as “happiest country in the world” according to various polls.
The top ten happiest countries in the world, according to the World Happiness Report:
- New Zealand
The top 10 unhappiest countries in the world according to the World Happiness Report:
- Burkina Faso
- Ivory Coast