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University of Sussex academic plays his part to find world’s happiest people

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Finland has been named as the world’s happiest country for the third year in a row in a major report featuring contributions from a University of Sussex economist.

The Finns have now moved significantly ahead of Denmark in second place while Luxembourg and Austria are newcomers to the top ten in this year’s list. The UK is ranked 13th - up two places from a year ago.

The World Happiness Report 2020, which ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, features a chapter co-authored by Dr George MacKerron of the University of Sussex Business School.

The report, published today to coincide with World Happiness Day, for the first time also ranks cities around the world by their subjective well-being. In general, the study found the happiness ranking of cities to be almost identical to that of the countries in which they are located with the Finnish capital Helsinki named the happiest city in the world.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Global Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said: “The World Happiness Report has proven to be an indispensable tool for policymakers looking to better understand what makes people happy and thereby to promote the wellbeing of their citizenry. Time and again we see the reasons for wellbeing include good social support networks, social trust, honest governments, safe environments, and healthy lives.”

Dr MacKerron co-authored a chapter on natural and built environments and happiness in the report with Dr Christian Krekel of the London School of Economics.

The chapter drew on data from the Mappiness app created by Dr MacKerron, which collated half a million responses over seven years from 15,000 volunteers precisely locating moments of happiness, to identify what environments in London made individuals the happiest.

Dr MacKerron, Senior Lecturer in Economics, said: “This unique data set gives us powerful new evidence on the importance of urban green and blue spaces for our happiness. Although we all face big challenges in the next few months, spending time in green and blue spaces will hopefully remain something many of us can do to keep our spirits up”.

The Top 20 happiest countries in this year’s list are:

1. Finland
2. Denmark
3. Switzerland
4. Iceland
5. Norway
6. The Netherlands
7. Sweden
8. New Zealand
9. Luxembourg
10. Austria
11. Canada
12. Australia
13. UK
14. Israel
15. Costa Rica
16. Ireland
17. Germany
18. US
19. Czech Republic
20. Belgium

Since the first World Happiness Report in 2012, four different countries have held the top position: Denmark in 2012, 2013 and 2016, Switzerland in 2015, Norway in 2017, and now Finland in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The World Happiness Report is a publication of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, powered by data from the Gallup World Poll, and supported by partners: Ernesto Illy Foundation; illycaffè; Davines Group; Blue Chip Foundation; The William, Jeff, and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation; and Unilever’s largest ice cream brand Wall’s.

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By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Friday, 20 March 2020

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