The true, north, strong and happy (Photo: Chris Wattie/REUTERS)
Let's start with the bad news first: Canada has fallen out of the top five in the annual World Happiness Report, a study commissioned by the United Nations. After coming in fifth in last year's inaugural report, Canada has slipped to number six, behind the happy northern Europeans in Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Sweden.
The rest is pretty much all good news for Canadians. Indeed, Canada's overall happiness actually went up between the two studies: it's just that Sweden and Switzerland went up more (and Finland dropped a little).
The World Happiness Report, published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, pulls together economics and psychology research with surveys and national statistics to assess objective and subjective measures of well-being. Some of the factors that weighed heavily in Canada's favour were our long life expectancy, high average income and strong social supports.
Much of the data behind the report comes from the life evaluation section of the annual Gallup World Poll, which queries approximately 1,000 residents in 160 countries, representing about 98 per cent of the world's population.
The report found that overall, the world is slowly getting happier, although this happiness is not spread evenly: in the Middle East and North Africa, happiness has dropped by 11.7 percentage points since 2007.
"The Arab Spring wasn't good for a lot of people in those regions," John Helliwell, a co-author of the report, told CBC News. "But the major declines were the countries that were hardest hit in the euro crisis — i.e. Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal."
The report concludes that six major factors can mostly explain why some countries are happier than others: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, social support, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and the generosity of fellow citizens. Canada, like Northern European countries, ranks high on all of these, which helps explain our position on the list.
The report also points out that "mental health is the single most important determinant of individual happiness," even though it's largely ignored by policy makers.
The overall goal of the report is to encourage more countries to consider the happiness of their citizens in their policy decisions. In the Kingdom of Bhutan, for example, the government has committed to maximizing the country's Gross National Happiness Index as a primary policy goal. Closer to home, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, based out of the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, attempts to keep track of how well the country is doing.
Via CBC News