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CARIBBEAN360 – The United Nations annual World Happiness Report was published on Monday (World Happiness Day), but Caribbean people interested in how their country fared were mostly disappointed, with much of the region apparently escaping the attention of the experts who compiled the report.
Of those nations to make it on the 155-strong list, the top four that could be considered part of the wider region were the mainland countries of Mexico (25), Guatemala (29), Panama (30) and Colombia (36).
The distinction of being the first Caribbean island country named went to Trinidad and Tobago, which placed 38th despite the twin-island republic’s rampant crime.
Next up were another two Central American countries: Nicaragua (43) and Belize (50), followed by Jamaica in 76th place.
Venezuela, which came in 82nd, was one of three countries to experience the biggest happiness drops in recent years.
The Dominican Republic (86) and Honduras (91) followed, while Haiti, ranked 145th, brought up the regional rear.
Happiness is increasingly considered a significant marker of social progress and is measured by the report on the basis of six key variables: GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations).
The fifth annual report named Norway the world’s happiest nation, up from fourth place last year.
This year, Norway pipped fellow Scandinavians in Denmark to the title and, while doing so, leapfrogged Iceland and Switzerland. The four countries in the Nordic region consistently perform well within the UN’s report.
Despite a tempered political climate in the UK, fuelled by Brexit and talks of the Union breaking up, the country also moved up the report’s ranking. It now places 19th, up from 23rd last year.
At the lower end of the scale, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Central Africa Republic make up the final three places (153-155). Just one place higher is war-torn Syria.
The UN says “much of Africa is struggling” and there are “considerable inequalities” in African countries. This has increased the amount of unhappiness within the past few years. Only Sierra Leone (106th) and Cameroon (107th) have seen significant improvement in the last decade, it said.
China (79th) is no happier than it was 25 years ago, the report said. Overall, the countries that have improved the most are Nicaragua, Latvia, and Sierra Leone, while Greece, the Central African Republic, and Venezuela have had the biggest happiness drops in recent years.
The report shows no improvement for the US, which fell from 13th to 14th in the space of a year. The country was also individually highlighted by the report’s editors – John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs – who said: “The USA is a story of reduced happiness.” Among those OECD countries ranked, it fell from the 3rd happiest country in 2007 to the 14th in 2016.