Where Is The Happiest Place on Earth?

By Colleen McTiernan
Picture of Hawaii

As it turns out, the happiest place in the world is not, in fact, a theme park. According to the World Happiness Report conducted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Norway took that honor in 2017, followed closely by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland.

In this report, happiness was measured by life evaluations conducted by approximately 1,000 people in each of the countries surveyed. Each person surveyed was asked to answer the following Cantril ladder question: “Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On what step of the ladder would you say you personally stand at this time?”

Happiness rankings were determined solely by the average of these responses, but they can be explained by six factors: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and absence of corruption, according to the report.

What about us?

The United States, while ranked a solid 14 on the list of the happiest countries, has shown a decline in happiness over the past 10 years, which researchers attribute to social causes rather than economic ones. While there has been an increase in satisfaction in the areas of GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy, according to the report, Americans have reported less happiness as far as social freedom, generosity, social support and corruption go, indicating that great social change must be enacted in the coming years for us to turn our declining happiness rates around.

So who is the happiest in the United States?

While Hawaii may have taken top honors as the happiest state in the Gallup-Healthways 2016 U.S. State Well-Being Rankings, Florida wasn’t too far behind, coming in at 11th of the 50 states. This report measured happiness based on five elements: purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being.

While Florida ranked in the top 10 for purpose, social and physical well-being, it fell lower for financial and community well-being. So if you feel a lack of pride about living in Florida, feel unsafe in your community or have trouble managing your finances, you are not alone! Much of the state feels the same way. Just be glad that you don’t live in West Virginia, which ranks 50th in purpose, financial, physical and overall well-being.

And in Florida?

The community with the highest well-being score in all of the U.S. is the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island area of Florida according to the 2016 Community Well-Being Rankings from Gallup-Healthways. This community has a high walk- and bike-ability score, which has contributed to its high physical and community well-being scores. And being by the beach surely helps as well!

Gainesville, along with five other communities in Florida, made it into the top 50 of the 189 communities surveyed. While it ranked very highly in purpose and social well-being, scores for financial, community and physical well-being all fell below the top 50 mark. So while Gainesville residents tend to experience supportive relationships and are generally motivated to achieve their goals, we tend to have a higher rate of financial stress, lack feelings of pride in our community and need to work on our overall health.

If I’m unhappy where I am, should I move?

Well, that depends. If you are unhappy because you feel unsafe in your neighborhood or find that there just aren’t enough job opportunities or activities for you, then a move might be the right option. But if your unhappiness stems from your relationships or other internal issues, a move might not do anything but mask the issue for a while. If you’re truly unhappy, then it might be best to consult a mental health professional.

On the flip-side, living in a community that scores low on overall happiness and well-being does not mean that you cannot find happiness while living there! Everyone is capable of creating their own happiness.