NEW YORK, USA, Friday July 06, 2012 – It’s official: Jamaicans are the happiest people in the Caribbean. That’s according to the first United Nations-commissioned World Happiness Report, which also ranked Jamaica 40 out of 156 nations worldwide.
Edited by economists Jeffrey Sachs, John Helliwell and Richard Layard, and released recently, the report pointed to the increased importance of happiness in economic and sustainable development.
The findings indicate that Jamaica was most negatively affected by corruption and lacklustre growth. When those measures are discounted, however, the islanders rank among the world’s happiest people.
Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Canada scored the highest on the index. Togo ranked the lowest.
Apart from Jamaica, the happiest countries in the region were found to be Costa Rica, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico and Brazil. The report found that the Dominican Republic and Haiti were the least happy regionally.
A country’s rank, captured in a ranking graph, or cantril ladder, was determined by the interplay of the potential for happiness with social support, health and life expectancy, corruption and freedom to choose.
The rankings drew on an average of several thousand responses globally, including from Jamaica, over the period 2005-2011.
In the Gallup World Poll, respondents were asked (using fresh annual samples of 1,000 persons, aged 15 and over, in each of more than 150 countries) to evaluate the quality of their lives on an 11-point ladder or scale running from zero to 10, with zero meaning they were least happy.
Higher income did not necessarily equate to happiness, with the United States which ranked 11th, placing just ahead of Costa Rica, the happiest developing nation.
“Higher average incomes do not necessarily improve average well-being, the US being a clear case in point,” said the report, adding that the tripling of US gross national product since the 1960s was met with average happiness remaining essentially unchanged over the half-century.
“The increased US output has caused massive environmental damage, notably through greenhouse gas concentrations and human-induced climate change, without doing much at all to raise the well-being even of Americans,” the report said.
“Thus, we don’t have a tradeoff between short-run gains to well-being versus long-run costs to the environment. We have a pure loss to the environment without offsetting short-term gains,” added the report.