LONDON — Denmark has reclaimed its place as the world’s happiest country, while Burundi ranks as the least happy nation, according to the fourth World Happiness Report, released Wednesday.
The report found that inequality was strongly associated with unhappiness — a stark finding for rich countries like the United States, where disparities in income, wealth, health and well-being have fueled discontent.
Denmark topped the list in the first report, in 2012, and again in 2013, but it was displaced by Switzerland last year. In this year’s ranking, Denmark was back at No. 1, followed by Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.
At the bottom of the list of more than 150 countries was Burundi, where a violent political crisis broke out last year. Burundi was preceded by Syria, Togo, Afghanistan, Benin, Rwanda, Guinea, Liberia, Tanzania and Madagascar. All of those nations are poor, and many have been destabilized by war, disease or both.
Of the world’s most populous nations, China came in at No. 83, India at No. 118, the United States at No. 13, Indonesia at No. 79, Brazil at No. 17, Pakistan at No. 92, Nigeria at No. 103, Bangladesh at No. 110, Russia at No. 56, Japan at No. 53 and Mexico at No. 21. The United States rose two spots, from No. 15 in 2015.
The happiness ranking was based on individual responses to a global poll conducted by Gallup. The poll included a question, known as the Cantril Ladder: “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 which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?”
The scholars found that three-quarters of the variation across countries could be explained by six variables: gross domestic product per capita (the rawest measure of a nation’s wealth); healthy years of life expectancy; social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble); trust (as measured by perceived absence of corruption in government and business); perceived freedom to make life choices; and generosity (as measured by donations).
The report was prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an international panel of social scientists convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.