UN Report: Money and happiness not related

Updated: 
Woman smilingA UN report compiled by academics has identified which countries are the happiest. The UK barely scrapes the top 20, sitting humbly at number 18 below the United Arab Emirates and just above Venezuela.

Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland and Norway respectively take the top three spots.


The report identifies the key areas to a nation's happiness as being "a high degree of social equality, trust and quality of governance", echoing the sentiments of The Spirit Level.In a similar vein to the report, the book suggested that inequality damages societies and the more equal a society, the better its members' lives are in areas such as social mobility and life expectancy.

The study suggests that one of the areas that economic powerhouses such as the UK and US fell down on was trust in government and institutions. The report said: "Levels of trust have fallen substantially over time in some countries (like the US and UK) and risen in others (such as Denmark)".

One of the more surprising outcomes from the report is the suggestion there is no direct correlation between a nation's wealth and the happiness of its inhabitants. Report author Jeffrey Sachs highlighted this in respect to the US, one of the richest nations in the world: "The US has had a three time increase of GNP per capita since 1960, but the happiness needle hasn't budged."

The report also identified corruption, impinging personal freedom and lack of social support as being key areas that can inhibit happiness.

Top 10 happiest countries

Top 10 happiest countries

Although there are universal happiness measures, according to the report one of the key areas that empowered Brits and kept them happy was being self-employed. "The self-employed do worse on many job dimensions, including income, hours of work and job security, but even so they often report higher levels of overall job satisfaction than do the employed, at least in OECD countries. A positive correlation is found in American and European data, and in data from Great Britain, Germany and Switzerland."

So despite the lack of security and the current financial climate, Britons are happiest being their own bosses. A thought to take in to the Bank Holiday weekend.

What do you think is the key to happiness? Would being self-employed make a difference? Let us know in the comments below.

The 20 happiest countries
1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. Norway
4. Netherlands
5. Canada
6. Switzerland
7. Sweden
8. New Zealand
9. Australia
10. Ireland
11. USA
12. Costa Rica
13. Austria
14. Israel
15. Belgium
16. Luxembourg
17. United Arab Emirates
18. United Kingdom
19. Venezuela
20. Iceland