World Happiness Report

The annual World Happiness Report has been released by the United Nations and this year it has a focus on migration. Finland tops the list with Australia coming in at 10th. Happiness rankings are based on survey data that asks residents to rate their quality of life from 0 (Miserable) - 10 (best life ever!). The authors of the report then weight the country result on 6 variables of well-being in the country including GDP per capita, Social Support, Healthy Life Expectancy, Freedom to make life choices, Generosity and Perceptions of Corruption. Country scores are also weighted against a hypothetical country (Dystopia) which has a score of 1.92 and is used as a benchmark to ensure all real countries have non-negative variable contributions to their overall happiness score. 

With the emphasis on migration for this year's report, some interesting areas were assessed. First was the increase of internal migration in countries from rural areas to cities. The report highlights China's rural migration to the city's in the past 25 years has increased by roughly 232 million people. This is over double the growth of global international migration in the same time frame (90 million people). Out of the 90 million global migrants, about 10% of that are refugees. 

So are people happier when they leave a place to move to another? According to the report on average, yes. MIgration is often the result of moving from one area to another in pursuit of higher incomes, better provisions of services or overall for a better life. The authors highlight that the most important factor in any form of migration is the frame of reference for the migrant. If you move from the countryside that has limited opportunity to the city with lots of opportunities, then your reference point of the countryside increase your views of life quality in your current location. The report finds that people moving from a country that rates lower on the happiness scales to a country higher on the happiness scales have on average an increase in their quality of life. This is reversed for those moving from a country higher on the list to a country lower on the list. Emigrants happiness levels within their new country were also influenced by a countries acceptance of emigrants within their culture and perceptions of migration. Countries that were more accepting of their views of immigration resulted in higher levels of happiness amongst emigrants. With large gaps in the happiness levels between the top 10 countries and the bottom 10 countries (average 4 points on a 10 point scale), it is easy to understand that people would look to move from one place to another in the pursuit of improved daily living and well-being. Of course, there is an upper limit to this as it is not feasible for people to live entirely in cities or just one country. The authors suggest that an obvious response is to increase happiness in the areas that compare lower on the happiness scale. This includes improving key predictors in regional and rural areas as well as countries that rate lower. It's a simple response but something that we all do on a micro level to promote happiness amongst ourselves. We practice gratitude, help others, promote connectedness and provide safety to ourselves and those around us. 


World Happiness Report 2018,