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Today Is The International Day of Happiness: Are You Happy ?

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On the occasion of the International Day of Happiness celebrated on March 20, Fedactio is looking at the question of the level of happiness, how it can be measured and what might increase or decrease it.

The pursuit of happiness, inherent in the human condition, has raised questions, passions, debates and struggles for thousands of years. Although everyone has their own conception of happiness, the desire to achieve it is common to all of us. The idea of establishing a happiness index as an instrument for measuring social progress comes from Bhutan, which, as early as 1972 introduced a gross national happiness index in order to replace the gross national product. Inspired by this idea, in 2012 the United Nations published the first edition of the World Happiness Report, an annual report introducing a ranking of more than 150 countries from the “happiest” to the “least happy”. To this end, citizens rate their life on a scale from 1 to 10, with "0" indicating the worst possible life and "10" indicating the best possible life. An average out of ten is calculated once their answers are collected. The institute collecting these data was able to determine that the majority of variations in well-being from one country to another can be explained by six variables, namely GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, level of social assistance, freedom of choice, generosity or the absence of corruption. The 2019 edition, published on the occasion of the International Day of Happiness, reveals that the Nordic countries remain the best performers. In fact, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands are occupying the top of the ranking while Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria are trying to compete in the top ten. Rwanda, Tanzania, Afghanistan, The Central African Republic and The Republic of South Sudan are occupying the bottom of the ranking. What about Belgium? Far from lagging behind in the ranking, Belgium is 18th, ahead of the United States (19th) or France (24rd).

How can we explain that the Nordic countries are the happiest countries over and over again?

While all the top-ranked countries have a thriving economy, wealth is far from being the main cause of their happiness. Indeed, they share some characteristics that contribute to making them happier, including a pollution-free environment, strong social relationships, good governance, a good balance between private and professional life, healthcare accessible to all and a remarkable level of freedom of speech and tolerance. Taking Iceland as an example, the country experienced an unprecedented economic recession in 2008 and its unemployment rate has been multiplied by eight. Despite this, its happiness index has not decreased thanks to the strengthening of social cohesion that this crisis caused. Thus, when it comes to happiness, the emotional takes precedence over the economic, which proves that "money cannot buy happiness".

Happiness and migration

The 2018 edition of the report also highlighted the parallels between the level of happiness of indigenous and immigrants. Actually, studies have shown that happiness lies less in cultural norms and attitudes than in the relationship to the environment and the quality of life that a country can offer. Thus, individuals migrating to a country with a higher level of happiness will tend to see their own personal happiness improve.

Happiness is a really complex concept which is hard to define. Through this article, Fedactio wanted to demonstrate that happiness can be a real measurement tool of social progress, often more relevant than a simple economic index. At this level, social cohesion is often underestimated even though it is one of the main causes of happiness. This approach is therefore part of our platform "Social Cohesion and Dialogue", which aims to stimulate dialogue and tolerance and to ensure peaceful coexistence throughout the world.

Are You Happy?
Knowing that the Belgian average is 69%, will you be the happiest Belgian citizen?

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International Day of Happiness

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