NEW YORK, United States, Monday March 21, 2016 – As if in defiance of a ruined economy and rising unemployment, Puerto Ricans have emerged the happiest people in the Caribbean, according to the 2016 World Happiness Report.
The US island territory claimed 15th place in the world rankings ahead of Mexico (21st), Suriname (40th), Trinidad and Tobago (43rd) and Venezuela (44th).
Also placing in the top 100 were Belize (52nd), Jamaica (73rd), and the Dominican Republic (89th).
Honduras (104th) and Haiti (136th) emerged as the least happy countries in the region among the 157 countries ranked around the world.
— Lowlands Solutions (@LowlandsSN) March 19, 2016
The report, which was released ahead of the UN’s World Happiness Day 2016, is the fourth of its kind to be produced, using a variety of factors to measure happiness around the world, since the first World Happiness Report in 2012.
People’s health, access to medical care, family relations, job security, political freedom and levels of government corruption are all among the measures used to assess happiness.
Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs, who helped write the report, said that happiness and well-being should be on every nation’s agenda.
“Human well-being should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives,” he said.
“Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Indeed the Goals themselves embody the very idea that human well-being should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives.
“Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just, and environmentally sustainable,” Sachs noted.
Denmark, with its relatively small population of around 5.6 million, nudged Switzerland into second place to take the title of the happiest country in the world 2016.
A combination of high GDP, good healthy life expectancy and high levels of social support gave the Scandinavian country its edge over the other nations.
Despite relatively high taxes, Denmark also claimed the top spot because much of the revenue collected is reinvested in schools, universities and free access to healthcare.
Students receive monthly grants for up to seven years, while 43 percent of the top jobs in the public sector are held by women.
Many Danes feel confident that if they lose their jobs or fall ill, the state will support them. The country also has to deal with few natural disasters and has little corruption.
Denmark was closely followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland as the next happiest places to live.
Rounding off the top 10 were Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.
The US came 13th overall, while the UK was ranked in 23rd place in the assessment, after slipping two places from the previous year.
China was ranked in 83rd place, Russia came in 56th place, and India was 118th.
Some countries that have experienced dramatic turmoil in recent years saw significant drops in their rankings since last year’s report.
Greece slipped from 120th to 126th place while Spain and Italy, which were also hit hard by the Eurozone crisis, also lost ground.
War-torn Syria and the impoverished African state of Burundi were ranked as the least happy countries out of the 157 assessed.