A baby sits in front of an Israeli flag.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The annual World Happiness Report published on Tuesday by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) ranked Israel as the 11th happiest country in the world for a third year in a row.
The report, prepared by the SDSN and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, was released in Rome in advance of UN World Happiness Day on March 20th.
When the publication first launched in 2012, Israel was ranked at number 14 out of 156 countries surveyed.
The top 10 this year were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden. Denmark was in third place last year, behind Switzerland and Iceland.
The bottom 10 were Madagascar, Tanzania, Liberia, Guinea, Rwanda, Benin, Afghanistan, Togo, Syria and Burundi.
The United States came in at 13, the United Kingdom at 23, France at 32, and Italy at 50.
"There is a very strong message for my country, the United States, which is very rich, has gotten a lot richer over the last 50 years, but has gotten no happier," said Professor Jeffrey Sachs, head of the SDSN and special advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
While the differences between countries where people are happy and those where they are not could be scientifically measured, "we can understand why and do something about it," Sachs, one of the report's authors, told Reuters in an interview in Rome.
"The message for the United States is clear. For a society that just chases money, we are chasing the wrong things. Our social fabric is deteriorating, social trust is deteriorating, faith in government is deteriorating," he said.
Aiming to "survey the scientific underpinnings of measuring and understanding subjective well-being," the report, now in its fourth edition, ranks 157 countries by happiness levels using factors such as per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and healthy years of life expectancy.
It also rates "having someone to count on in times of trouble" and freedom from corruption in government and business.
"When countries single-mindedly pursue individual objectives, such as economic development to the neglect of social and environmental objectives, the results can be highly adverse for human wellbeing, even dangerous for survival," it said.
"Many countries in recent years have achieved economic growth at the cost of sharply rising inequality, entrenched social exclusion, and grave damage to the natural environment."
The first report was issued in 2012 to support a UN meeting on happiness and well-being. Five countries - Bhutan, Ecuador, Scotland, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela - now have appointed Ministers of Happiness charged with promoting it as a goal of public policy.