Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent
The state of our world is shifting beneath our feet — economics alone no longer equate to satisfaction, let alone happiness.
Today’s visualization pulls data from the seventh World Happiness Report 2019, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. We’ve previously shown the variables used to measure happiness in this report, but here, we break down rankings by continent and region for a clearer picture of where each country lies.
Unhappy Americans have caused the country to tumble in rankings for a third straight year, despite evidence that things are generally looking up. The report attributes much of this erosion to a variety of addictions: opioids, workaholism, gambling, internet, exercise, and even shopping are among them.
Haiti is the least happy country in this region. The country is still struggling to rebuild sanitation infrastructure and other educational and healthcare programs, despite foreign aid.
In brighter news, Nicaragua is seeing great gains in happiness levels, as the country makes a concentrated effort to reduce poverty.
In South America, the majority of countries cluster around a score of six on the happiness scale.
The one notable exception to this is Venezuela, which is faltering in both happiness rank and regional improvement. The nation’s hyperinflation and humanitarian crisis both show no signs of slowing down.
Finland comes out on top of the world for a second consecutive year, and it’s not difficult to see why. The country boasts a stable work-life balance, bolstered by a comprehensive welfare state.
Scandinavian countries appear among the happiest nations for similar very reasons — elevating the region’s score to 16% above the global average.
On the flip side, Ukraine is the unhappiest, likely intensified by the ongoing war in southeastern Donbass. Greece is the least improved, as it continues to heal from the sovereign debt crisis.
Middle East and Central Asia
Uzbekistan shows the swiftest regional improvement, as the country has launched an ambitious reform agenda for greater economic, social, and political development and openness.
Unfortunately, Syria’s continued civil war comes with a heavy price for its people and economy, as does the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — although the latter doesn’t seem to impact Israel’s happiness ranking. In fact, Israel finished with the 13th best score, globally.
Rest of Asia and Oceania
In East Asia, the average happiness score is quite close to the global average, with Taiwan standing out as the happiest country.
Singapore out-competes other countries within Southeast Asia, despite only being home to a population of 5.6 million. Its neighbor Malaysia, however, plunged from 35th to 80th place.
Oceania stands alone – Australia and New Zealand are closely matched in their individual happiness scores.
The African continent as a whole fares 19.2% below the global average. But there are silver linings, with strong strides towards improvement being made.
Mauritius benefits from good governance and a buoyant tourism sector — with visitor arrivals equal to the island’s 1.3 million population. Meanwhile, Benin has soared in the rankings, and is supported by the World Bank in key structural reforms such as poverty reduction and access to basic services.
What could these rankings look like in another ten years?
Notes: The Africa map was updated to show more country scores. The report only covers 156 countries, so “Oceania” only refers to Australia and New Zealand in this instance.