September 28, 2011
Francesca Levy, 07.14.10, 05:00 PM EDT
In the wake of their World Cup loss, residents of the Netherlands may be feeling depressed. But there’s reason to believe they won’t be done in by the agony of defeat: According to a recent poll, the country is one of the happiest in the world.
Championship-winning Spain, on the other hand, was swept with euphoria and national pride, but that may have been an unfamiliar feeling. The country ranks No. 17 of 21 European countries in terms of happiness.
The fact is good times probably have more to do with the size of your wallet than the size of your trophy shelf. The five happiest countries in the world–Denmark,Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands–are all clustered in the same region, and all enjoy high levels of prosperity.
Video: Happy In Bhutan
“The Scandinavian countries do really well,” says Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup, which developed the poll. “One theory why is that they have their basic needs taken care of to a higher degree than other countries. When we look at all the data, those basic needs explain the relationship between income and well-being.”
Behind the Numbers
Quantifying happiness isn’t an easy task. Researchers at the Gallup World Poll went about it by surveying thousands of respondents in 155 countries, between 2005 and 2009, in order to measure two types of well-being.
First they asked subjects to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives, and ranked their answers using a “life evaluation” score between 1 and 10. Then they asked questions about how each subject had felt the previous day. Those answers allowed researchers to score their “daily experiences”–things like whether they felt well-rested, respected, free of pain and intellectually engaged.
Subjects that reported high scores were considered “thriving.” The percentage of thriving individuals in each country determined our rankings. For a complete list of countries surveyed, including the percentages thriving and their daily happiness scores, click here.
The Gallup researchers found evidence of what many have long suspected: money does buy happiness–at least a certain kind of it. In a related report, they studied the reasons why countries with high gross domestic products won out for well-being, and found an association between life satisfaction and income.