For the fifth year in a row, Israel retained its spot as the 11th happiest country in the world, according to the annual “World Happiness Report 2018,” published on Wednesday.
The report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels and, for the first time, also ranked 117 countries by the happiness of immigrants.
This year, Finland knocked Norway out its top spot in 2017, with Norway ranking second, followed by Denmark (3), Iceland (4) and Switzerland closing out the top five. The Netherlands came in 6th, Canada 7th, New Zealand 8th, followed by Sweden and Australia in the tenth spot. The US, in the 14th spot in 2017, fell to 18 this year.
The report has been released yearly since 2012 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) at the United Nations. It is published ahead of the International Day Of Happiness marked on March 20th every year.
This year’s report focused heavily on immigration and migration with Israel coming in the 12th spot in happiness ranking for the foreign-born, based on surveys conducted between 2005-2017 and with a sample of 100 respondents.
“A noteworthy finding is that Russia-born people in Israel evaluate their lives much more positively after migration but simultaneously experience adverse outcomes in terms of effect. These results are in line with the relatively high life evaluations but relatively low emotional well-being of Israel’s native population,” the report reads.
However, it also notes Israel as among the “least-accepting countries” of immigrants, alongside Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan.
Overall, the report says, “perhaps the most striking finding…is that a ranking of countries according to the happiness of their immigrant populations is almost exactly the same as for the rest of the population.”
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Immigrant happiness, says the report, like that of the locally born, “depends on a range of features of the social fabric, extending far beyond the higher incomes traditionally thought to inspire and reward migration.”
“The countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries, but instead the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives,” it adds.
The survey is based on samples of 1,000 people per year averaged for 2015-2017 for the 156 countries surveyed by the Gallup World Poll. Respondents are asked to make “a cognitive assessment of the quality of their lives on an 11-point ladder scale, with the bottom rung of the ladder (0) being the worst possible life for them and the top rung (10) being the best possible life,” also known as the Cantril ladder-of-life question.
Researchers then also measure the results against six variables: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity/charitable giving, and perceived levels of government and corporate corruption.
In last place, in the 156th spot, was Burundi, preceded by the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
The report ends with a warning on three emerging health problems that threaten happiness – obesity, the opioid crisis, and depression – with most of the evidence and discussion focused on the United States, “where the prevalence of all three problems has been growing faster and further than in most other countries.”
“The US is in the midst of a complex and worsening public-health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards,” reads the report.