The World Value Survey collects data from a series of representative national surveys covering almost 100 countries, with the earliest estimates dating back to 1981.
In these surveys, respondents are asked: “Taking all things together, would you say you are (i) Very happy, (ii) Rather happy, (iii) Not very happy or (iv) Not at all happy”.
These are difficult questions to answer; but they are questions that undoubtedly matter for each of us personally.
Indeed, today, life satisfaction and happiness are central research areas in the social sciences, including in ‘mainstream’ economics.
The map below shows, country by country, the ‘happiness scores’ published this report.
The underlying source of the happiness scores in the World Happiness Report is the Gallup World Poll—a set of nationally representative surveys undertaken in more than 160 countries in over 140 languages.In this entry, we discuss the data and empirical evidence that might answer these questions.Our focus here will be on survey-based measures of self-reported happiness and life satisfaction. The World Happiness Report is a well-known source of cross-country data and research on self-reported life satisfaction.In France, for example, we can see that the overall trend in the period 1974-2016 is positive; yet there is a pattern of ups and downs.And second, despite temporary fluctuations, decade-long trends have been generally positive for most European countries.As with the steps of the ladder, values in the map range from 0 to 10. According to 2016 figures, Nordic countries top the ranking: Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Iceland have the highest scores (all with averages above 7).In the same year, the lowest national scores correspond to Central African Republic, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Haiti (all with average scores below 3.5).Each differently-colored distribution refers to a world region; and for each region, we have overlaid the distribution for the entire world as a reference.These plots show that in sub-Saharan Africa—the region with the lowest average scores–the distributions are consistently to the left of those in Europe.In most cases, the share of people who say they are ‘very satisfied’ or ‘fairly satisfied’ with their life has gone up over the full survey period.Yet there are some clear exceptions, of which Greece is the most notable example.