NEW YORK, U.S.: Jamaicans have been named the happiest people in the Caribbean according to the first United Nations-commissioned World Happiness Report, which also ranked Jamaica 40 out of 156 nations worldwide.
Edited by economists Jeffrey Sachs, John Helliwell and Richard Layard, the recently-released report emphasized the increased importance of happiness in economic and sustainable development.
The findings indicate that Jamaica was most negatively affected by corruption and slow-paced growth. When those measures are discounted, however, they rank among the world’s happiest people.
Denmark, Finland, Norway, Netherlands and Canada scored the highest on the index while Togo ranked the lowest.
The happiest countries in the region, not including Jamaica, are Costa Rica, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico and Brazil. The report found that the Dominican Republic and Haiti were the least happy regionally.
A country’s rank, captured in a ranking graph, or Cantril Ladder, was determined by the interaction between the potential for happiness with social support, health and life expectancy, corruption and freedom to choose.
The report used an average of several thousands of responses from around the world, including from Jamaica, over the period 2005-2011.
In the Gallup World Poll, respondents were asked (using annual samples of 1,000 people over the age of 15, in each of more than 150 countries) to evaluate the quality of their lives on an 11-point ladder or scale running from zero to 10, with zero meaning they were least happy.
Higher income did not necessarily directly link to happiness, with the United States, which ranked 11th, placing just ahead of Costa Rica, the happiest developing nation.
“Higher average incomes do not necessarily improve average well-being, the U.S. being a clear case in point,” said the report, adding that the tripling of U.S. gross national product since the 1960s was met with average happiness remaining fundamentally unchanged over the half-century.
“The increased U.S. output has caused massive environmental damage, notably through greenhouse gas concentrations and human-induced climate change, without doing much at all to raise the well-being even of Americans,” the report said.
“Thus, we don’t have a tradeoff between short-run gains to well-being versus long-run costs to the environment. We have a pure loss to the environment without offsetting short-term gains.”