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NEWS 20 Mar 17

Balkan States Look Gloomy on World Happiness Table

The peoples of the Balkans have little to smile about according to a new ranking released in time with UN’s World happiness Day.

People on the streets of central Sarajevo. Photo: Patrick Razenberg/Flickr

How happy are the people of the Balkans? Not so much, if a new table released in New York on Monday on International Day of Happiness - which the UN has promoted since 2012 - is anything to judge by.

Using a range of benchmarks ranging from income to life expectancy, welfare, corruption [lack of], trust and generosity, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, SDSN, has  - unsurprisingly - worked out that Scandinavians have most to smile out.

Minus Switzerland, they hog four of the five top places in the ranking, closely followed in sixth place by the Dutch, which may explain why voters in The Netherlands declined to vote angry right-winger Geert Wilders into power last week].

Americans and Brits seem moderately content overall, coming in at 14th and 19th place.

Equally unsurprisingly, war-torn or starving African and Middle Eastern states bump along the bottom of the table, which is where you can find Syria, Yemen, Burundi, Rwanda and the Central African Republic.

In the not-so-happy, Balkans, Romanians and Slovenes seem the happiest, or least miserable, nations, coming in at 57th and 62nd place respectively, above a clutch of other Balkan states. Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo are all in the 70s, just above Montenegro.

The two most miserable states in the Balkans are Macedonia and Bosnia, clinging on at 90th and 92nd place respectively. Macedonians may be annoyed to find themselves ranked only one spot above devastated Somalia, and only 11 above the Israeli-Occupied Palestinian West Bank.

Meik Wiking, from the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, said the sense of wellbeing among most Scandinavians was easy to unpack. “What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good,” he told the UK’s Daily Mail.


The report’s author, John Helliwell, an economist in British Columbia, Canada, told the Mail that happiness was not just about money, either. “It’s the human things that matter. If the riches make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy relationship between people, is it worth it? The material can stand in the way of the human,” he said. 

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon launched the SDSN in 2012 to promote global scientific expertise in the service of solutions to the problems of sustainable development.

The report itself says happiness indexes are nothing to laugh about.

“Increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. In June 2016 the OECD committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the center of governments’ efforts,” it says. 


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