On Wednesday — the International Day of Happiness, according to the United Nations — the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network released its World Happiness Report.
The report ranks countries on six elements: freedom, generosity, healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support and absence of corruption.
“The top 10 countries tend to rank high in all six variables, as well as emotional measures of well-being,” John Helliwell, co-editor of the report, told CNN.
That doesn’t mean that citizens of countries ranked high in the report walk around smiling all the time but, rather, that they are able to push through in moments of crisis and sadness.
“What stands out about the happiest and most well-connected societies is their resilience and ability to deal with bad things,” Helliwell told CNN.
New Zealand, which ranked eighth this year (bested only by the Nordic countries, Switzerland and the Netherlands), is one such resilient country.
The chapter on happiness and prosocial behavior in the report suggests that “people seem most likely to derive happiness from giving experiences that provide a sense of free choice, opportunities for social connection, and a chance to see how the help has made a difference.”
But citizens in happier countries also say that they feel socially supported. Social support was one of the main factors for New Zealanders’ ranking so high in happiness. New Zealand is increasingly thinking about supporting well-being on a government — as well as individual or casual — level. In May, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that her government would introduce “the world’s first ‘well-being budget.’ ” She indicated that the budget would provide for projects to tackle “climate change, digital transformation, social exclusion, poor health, housing and domestic violence.”
This sense of being connected and close to one’s fellow citizens has been evident in the wake of the mosque shootings in Christchurch. Be it students performing the haka or Ardern’s pledge to cover the funeral costs for the victims’ families and wearing hijab in a sign of empathy and respect to meet with members of the grieving Muslim community, New Zealanders quickly came together to comfort and provide for one another after the massacre. In other words, New Zealand citizens’ everyday sense of closeness to one another and their desire to help one another also translated, in the face of tragedy, into resilience.
“After the 2011 earthquake and now the terrorist attack in Christchurch — with high social capital, where people are connected — people rally and help each other and (after the earthquake) rebuild immediately,” Helliwell said.