This photo of Barak Obama kite surfing in the British Virgin Islands on vacation after leaving office in February, sometimes in the company of his host entrepreneur Richard Branson who owns extensive property holdings in the region, just encapsulated to me what happiness is.
Obama is a well known fan of water sports but was told by a Secret Service agent after a surf in Hawaii, his birthplace, just before his inauguration in 2009 that it was probably the last time in eight years he would be able to do this (depending on his term of office as US president).
And so it transpired. Imagine not be able to do the things you most love – we all know how it feels at various junctures in life because of family, financial and/or work pressures and responsibilities.
And see the euphoria when you’re allowed “back in the saddle”!
But to the point: According to new rankings from the World Happiness Report 2017, courtesy UK’s Spa Opportunities magazine, Norway tops the global happiness rankings, followed closely by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland.
The Top 4 ranked countries all score highly on the factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.
The other countries in the Top 10 also have high values
in the six key variables that are used to explain happiness
differences: income, healthy life expectancy, having
someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust.
Finland ranks in fifth place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand – and Australia and Sweden, which tied for 9th place.
The importance of social foundations to happiness is also emphasised, which points out that about half of the differences in rankings are explained by factors like having someone to count on, generosity, freedom and freedom from corruption.
The other half is attributed to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The World Happiness Report analyses social foundations and mental health per capita and healthy life expectancy – both of which also depend on on the social context.
Mental health is also key, the report finds; in Western societies, diagnosed mental illness is more important than income, employment or physical illness.
In every country, physical health is also important, yet in no country is it more important than mental health.
In all countries, the most powerful effect would come from eliminating depression and anxiety.