Europe is one of the happiest places on Earth. Half of the top 10 happiest countries in the world (and more than half of the top 20) are EU Member States, according to the latest World Happiness Report, published in March 2019 by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The report ranks countries according to a series of indicators, including income per capita, healthy life expectancy, freedom, and perceptions of corruption. Finland comes out on top as the happiest place on Earth, with Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Austria also ranking in the top ten.

There is, however, a great deal of variety between Member States; the “happiest” countries tend to be in Northern and Western Europe, whilst Southern and Eastern European countries generally score lower. Bulgaria, for example, is the least-happy EU Member State, placing 97th out of 156 in the rankings (only 11 places higher than Venezuela, a country currently enduring economic and social collapse).

So, quelle surprise, the richer EU Member States also tend to be happier. Does that mean that, ultimately, it really is all about economic growth and money? Or is it more about how we measure “happiness”? Is it possible to decouple our notion of progress from economic growth, maybe even ‘de-growing’ our economies and prioritising wellbeing? Or is that all a bunch of hippy nonsense?

Is happiness more important than economic growth? Is it possible to measure ‘wellbeing’? And is Europe really one of the happiest places on Earth? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Mihailo K

44 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    ………does EU/DE insinuate these “good rankings” are due to being part of the 2002 EMU19 club? Since it is the political silly season- aka- election time- it probably is so.

    The “common & old fashioned” way to measure a NATION’S achievement (GDP,PPP, CPI…) and “automatically” conclude: that “people” in rich(er) nations, who are “better off” must therefore be “happier” than “people” within poor(er) nations- is not necessarily so and definitely not true.

    The 2012 UN introduced alternative way (HI) using more indicators to assess a nation is surely a better method- but is still not absolute conclusive.

    Why? Since all these indexes do not- when measuring a whole nation- separate political, economic, governance & policy performance of an entire community from a person’s individual circumstance & experience.

    However, the new “World Happiness Index” measuring a whole nation by using additional indexes is a good improvement over the old one. Some years ago I suggested considering the use of the HI to “unionize”- on a purely voluntary basis- similar ranked European countries (multi speed EU) instead the rigid & one sided political EU selection criteria.

    How many of the 500mio EU citizens/people are having a multitude of personal reasons to be “unhappy”? We wouldn’t know. A nations economic well-being- specifically one controlled by the current EU concept- is not equal to personal happiness, while only sharing certain political & economical commonalities.

    And should the EU/DE think because 8 of the 10 top rankings are (still) in the European EU and such happiness is embedded in the magic of supranational and multicultural policies- they need to think again!

    The slight losses (-) shown in some of the EU top nations- should not be overlooked. New Zealand, Australia & Canada are examples of happy countries- not “UNIONIZED”

    To yearn for personal happiness is best achieved by non political means- like:

    Barton Goldsmith Ph.D. speaks about “Emotional Fitness” & inner peace.

    Robert Puff Ph.D. “Meditation for Modern Life” due to a stressful live.

    No consolation for EU stagnation!

    • avatar
      EU Reform- Proactive

      Sorry, for my fake news! My apologies for selecting & counting wrongly. Up to 10 is quite a mission at times!

      Of course: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Israel, Canada, New Zealand & Australia of the top 10 are not EU members= 7. So it is even a worse outcome for the EU. Only 3 out of 10 are happy (30%)! Please check & correct if wrong. Too many tables! OMG- what a bad reflection!

      The UK might even move up the ladder after Brexit?

      Conclusion: You definitely would be “happier” outside than inside the EU!

  2. avatar

    But growth could contribute to happiness

  3. avatar

    For the Western world when welfare by the government and economic policies are giving ‘cherry’ to the people—–people don’t have to limit their life objective for ‘food, cloth, and shelter’. So, their ‘perpetual’ happiness is necessary as they have ‘nothing’ left to cry out for……But in the ‘developing’ world, ‘happiness’ don’t come in ‘Santa’s gift box’. They have to work to earn money so that they will remain happy. One can’t compare the economy and happiness. The economy is fact and ‘happiness’ is ‘perception’, which changes according to time, context, and circumstances. :)

  4. avatar

    Neo-liberal economics and the post-modern social rule subjugated the interests of society to the demands of the economy. A very big mistake. Some people start to recognize this mistake, and they get labelled all kinds of evil.
    Someday enough people will wake up.

  5. avatar

    I think that indirectly, economic growth might contribute to happiness, due to the simple fact that populations with higher purchasing power indices are more easily able to afford goods that might contribute to their happiness (e.g. being able to afford materials for a hobby). Equally, societies with more economic growth tend to (generally) be associated with better work-leisure ratios, again contributing to the well being of the population.

  6. avatar
    catherine benning

    How would you secure Europe’s borders?

    Over simplified question. One cannot exist without the other. Although there is an element of deferred gratification in all life expectations.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      I wrongly added the thread of another question to this above post. It should have been….” Is happiness more important than economic growth?”

  7. avatar

    If happiness is evenly enjoyed by all members of the society/state including those vulnerable ones, of course, economic growth is not important at all. What is important is to see the society as a whole not ourselves alone.

  8. avatar

    You cannot measure happiness…it is a state of mind.

  9. avatar

    Bódis this is an evaluation made by bureaucrats for financial or economical studies etc..You need to travel a bit to understand what happiness means for people…..not for statistics.

  10. avatar

    This is a false dichotomy. Happiness is an entirely subjective and individual state of mind and there is no proven causation or corelation between the number of people feeling “happy” in a society and that society’s rates of economic growth. The question simply makes no sense, it’s like asking “Is love more important than urbanization”.

  11. avatar

    You’re oversimplifying. In a society where economic growth is strictly linked to consumerism, we’re compelled to buy because everything pushes us to buy in order to achieve happiness and satisfaction, feeling unsatisfied at the end.
    If economic growth is a paradigm that is necessary linked to consumerism, it will necessary create unhappiness

    • avatar

      Antonio I am not oversimplifying, it’s exactly the question that is oversimplified. Economic growth is a macroeconomic stat, it’s NOT linked simply to consumerism, it can and has been measured for various societies and civilizations that pre-existed our own. It’s part of the science of macroeconomics and it has a very specific purpose and ways of measurement that have nothing to do with individual happiness and contentment with an individual’s life. The question is simply and incorrectly comparing apples and pears.

  12. avatar

    If you are broke and homeless your happiness isn’t linked with your financial status? It’s not only consumerism , if there is no growth at all there won’t be any Jobs and without a job , technically you can’t live. Unless you don’t care living in a cave eating trees that is ..

    • avatar

      Παυλος, it probably is. It’s not connected, however, to the economic growth of the country. Because the vast majority of people aren’t broke and homeless.

  13. avatar

    Is it a real question? Money can’t bring happiness. But they can take it with them when they go

  14. avatar

    Naturally. Economic growth alone is like cancer .It is proved in real life

  15. avatar

    Why the …. we need economic growth without happiness?

  16. avatar

    Yes, it is but one element does not exclude the other, don’t you think?

  17. avatar

    Happiness is more importante but you can only be happy if personaly you have some type of economic growth.

  18. avatar

    Sure… But happiness without money is not do easy and money without growth either…

  19. avatar

    Seems like a false question to begin with

  20. avatar

    Happy fullfilled people deliver more value.

  21. avatar

    You can’t have happiness without a good income. No one is happy to live with 3-4 people in an appartment because they can’t afford the rent or worry about bills all the time.

  22. avatar

    How would you be happy if you don’t have money?

  23. avatar

    Money gives freedom… Freedom gives happiness…

  24. avatar

    Comments gives the answer
    Possessions and money, that’s the fuel of people. They don’t understand that money is just a vehicle not a necessity. Do I really need a IPhone if I do not intend to use it as a professional tool. Do I need a 4 bedroom apartment if I live by myself?

  25. avatar

    There is no happiness without growth.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Does it need to be economic growth though?

    • avatar

      Among all things, yes. Money is an important aspect of life, no matter what people say. Money = freedom/more options…

    • avatar

      but there is an upper limit to this. Once people start earning more than this, they can even see a decline in their happiness.

    • avatar

      Yeah, but that upper limit is a dream for the most of us. So, I’d still take all the money I can and worry later.

    • avatar

      but should we strive to get as much money as we can or should we strive to find a balance between work and life? Should life be all about making money?

    • avatar

      Until some point absolutely. I won’t have this much energy in 15 – 20 years so I’m all in until my 45-50.

    • avatar

      but is that the best way to live your life? Shouldn’t life be about more than just work?

    • avatar

      I think that paying for a home and bringing food at the table for my baby daughter and my wife is worth it… Especially taking into consideration I’m building a business that will later on bring me much more. I live in Croatia and I’m not super wealthy, so you might not understand my circumstances. It’s same for the most of the southern and eastern EU. I will also have your attitude when I build a decent life for my family.

    • avatar

      I agree with you that working to support your family is indeed worth it. And it also shows that life is about more than just work, it’s also about family, friends, etcetera. But it’s sometimes hard to find a good work-lifebalance.

    • avatar

      Hopefully I will be able to do so in the future!

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