SUNDAY TIMES - How did South Africa rank in this year's World Happiness Report?
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Sunday Times Lifestyle By AFP Relaxnews, 2017-03-20 16:45:51.0

How did South Africa rank in this year's World Happiness Report?

Northern European countries dominated the list of the top 10 happiest countries in the 2017 World Happiness Report.
Image: iStock

To mark World Happiness Day on March 20, researchers have released the World Happiness Report 2017, revealing that Norway is officially the happiest country in the world.

First published back in April 2012, the report ranks 155 countries on their happiness levels, which the researchers point out is increasingly considered to be the proper measure of social progress.

Norway has jumped from 4th place in 2016 to 1st place this year, despite the price of oil falling, which makes up a large part of its economy.

The rest of the top 10 also remains the same as last year, although there has been some shuffling around of the order.

Norway's fellow Northern European countries Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland have all made the top five, with the Netherlands coming in at number six. Canada and New Zealand follow with Australia and Sweden tied for the 9th position.

The USA however dropped to 14th place from 13th last year. Despite income per person growing in the country, happiness is steadily falling due to declining social support and increased corruption.

Similarly, despite the large increase in per capita income in China over the past 25 years, people are no happier now than they were 25 years ago, due to rising unemployment and worsening social safety nets.

The results from the US and China emphasise that money can only buy a limited amount of happiness.  

In addition, all of the countries who made the top ten didn't just score highly on GDP per capita, but also had high values in the other five key variables used to explain happiness differences among countries, including:

• Healthy years of life expectancy;

• Social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble);

• Trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business),

• Perceived freedom to make life decisions; and

• Generosity (as measured by recent donations).

Unemployment also results in a major fall in happiness, and even for those working the quality of work can cause large variations in how happy people are.

African countries dominated the list of unhappiest countries, but though many of those in bottom rankings are impoverished, once again money isn't the only factor influencing happiness.

The researchers noted that many African countries that expected positive changes after achieving self-rule and democracy are still waiting for these changes to happen in order to improve their lives.

The report also points out that 80% of the variance of happiness across the world occurs within countries, not between countries. Within richer countries the main factors that affect happiness are mental health, physical health and personal relationships, whereas in poorer countries income inequality is a large factor influencing happiness.

However across all countries, despite the health of the economy, mental illness is a major source of unhappiness, even more important than physical health, highlighting the importance that governments should be giving to this area.

HOW SOUTH AFRICA FARED

On a global scale, South Africa has jumped from 116th place in 2016 to 101st place this year.

It was also listed as being one of the top 10 happiest countries in Africa in the 2017 report. Algeria, Mauritius, Libya, Morocco and Somalia all made the top five, with Nigeria coming in at number 6. South Africa ranked number 7, with Tunisia, Egypt and Sierra Leone coming in at 8, 9 and 10 respectively.

The world's top 10 happiest countries:

1) Norway

2) Denmark

3) Iceland

4) Switzerland

5) Finland

6) Netherlands

7) Canada

8) New Zealand

9) Australia

10) Sweden

The 10 unhappiest countries in the world:

146) Yemen

147) South Sudan

148) Liberia

149) Guinea

150) Togo

151) Rwanda

152) Syria

153) Tanzania

154) Burundi

155) Central African Republic

- Additional reporting by TMG Digital