NEW YORK, MARCH 20 – Italy is happier this year than it was last year. This is according to the World Happiness Report which, for the seventh consecutive year, has ranked countries according to a happiness index. This year’s happiest nation was Finland, a country that has held the title before. Although it is not ranked number one, this year Italy has increased in ranking, climbing from 47th to 36th place. The annual report is published every year on March 20 which is International Day of Happiness, a celebration commenced by the United Nations in 2013. The findings of this year’s report were introduced today in New York by Italian businessman, Andrea Illy, the president of the Ernesto Illy Foundation, by Italy’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mariangela Zappia, economist Jeffrey Sachs, as well as academics and ambassadors from other countries.
The World Happiness Report is a product that analyzes citizen’s perceptions of happiness in 156 countries. The publication is largely based around Gallup polling from Columbia University’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a project directed by Sachs. Following Finland’s number one seed, other countries have consolidated their place following last year’s results. Denmark, the country home to the philosophy of happiness, ranked second followed by Norway, Iceland, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, and Austria. “We live in a moment of transition towards a new way, and this generates uncertainty. This is why social happiness is more relevant than ever, not only for us but for future generations,” said Illy.
“Happiness and well-being of people represent the ultimate objective for governments and societies. Likewise, the 2030 Agenda represents the global call to action towards happiness and well-being for the people and the planet. As the Sustainable Development Goals show us, and as the report highlights, happiness and well-being require a balanced combination of human, social, economic, cultural, political, and environmental factors,” said Italy’s permanent representative to the UN. According to Zappia, happiness could in fact be considered the product of a combination of 17 objectives found in the Sustainable Development Goals.
“In the 2030 Agenda Member States addressed this point more specifically when we committed to ‘develop broader measures of progress to complement gross domestic product. In order to do so, we must make sure that our public policies properly reflect the integration of social, economic and environmental dimensions and therefore truly address human development and well-being of people. Moving beyond GDP has become increasingly central both in measuring existing public policies and in designing new ones”, Zappia said. Such an emphasis on happiness and wellbeing requires a fundamental change in cultural and political perspective. The Ambassador noted that Italy is one of the first countries to have adopted this mindset and has structured its budgeting to include 12 key indicators correlated with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The report analyzes the evolution of global happiness since 2005. According to the data collected by Gallup, global happiness has decreased since the publishing of the first report. negative emotions such as sadness, uncertainty, and anger are highest in the continents of Asia and Africa. Yemen, India, Syria, Botswana, and Venezuela are all countries that witnessed the biggest drop in happiness levels.
The 2019 World Happiness Report highlights the relationship between happiness and community, and introduced the term “Happier Together.” The thinking behind the term is to concentrate on what can be shared by a community rather than focusing on what divides communities. In this vein, one of the other focal points of the report discussed the methods individuals use to participate in communities. Voting, internet, big data, and social media were elements touched up in the report. Jeffrey Sachs noted that “the compulsive use of dependent substances and behaviors are causing grave unhappiness.” He went on to add that “governments, communities, and businesses should utilize these indicators to put in place new policies aimed at overcoming these sources of unhappiness.” Sachs emphasized this point, heralding to the report’s findings of growing unhappiness worldwide. He went on to note the importance of the World Happiness Report as a tool that governments can use to rethink public policy to better develop their population’s wellbeing.
International Day of Happiness is an event that is celebrated both online and with public events worldwide. The English organization, Action for Happiness, helps coordinate many events. The organization has an active role in many countries including Italy, who today also hosted different initiatives to celebrate the day. In 2017, the Italian office of Action for Happiness launched a campaign titled “Explore what counts.” The objective of this initiative was to raise awareness on the different aspects that lead to happier, more harmonious, lives. The program is offered and can be followed in Vincenza, Genoa, Novate Milanese, Treviso, Bergamo, and Milan. (@OnuItalia)