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Happiness Rankings Around the World

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The World Happiness Report measures happiness in countries around the world, and is based on six key criteria. These include GDP per capital, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life decisions, generosity, and the level of corruption people believe exists.

In general, Scandinavian countries were at the top of the report because of their strong economies, established social support systems for their citizens, and trustworthy governments. The countries which fell just below the top positions had somewhat weaker economies, poorer support networks, or both. Most sub-Saharan countries in Africa found themselves at the bottom of the happiness scale, as also were war-torn countries.

The questionnaire was based on the Cantril Scale. Respondents imagined a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top. The top of the ladder represented an ideal life, and the bottom of the ladder represented the worst possible life. People who answered the questions had to imagine on which step of the ladder they currently stood.

An important discovery revealed that countries with high levels of trust better handled the most recent economic crisis. Countries without much trust didn't do as well, and some countries continue to struggle economically.

The report demonstrates that happiness must be viewed as an accepted measure of social progress and the goal of various public policies. As a result, more governments have begun to use this information when crafting new policies which enable their citizens to live better lives.


Preview some of the lesson material:

Warm Up: Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  1. I'm generally a happy person.
  2. People in my country generally live long, prosperous, and happy lives.
  3. Happiness is a good measure of a country's success.
  4. Countries need to work harder to make their citizens happier.
  5. Money and success is more important than happiness.

True or False?: Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) whether the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

  1. The Happiness Report is based on only six questions.
  2. Scandinavian countries provided enough income and social support for their citizens.
  3. People who answered the questions first imagined ideal situations.
  4. The article suggests that social togetherness and support is a very important factor.
  5. The information in the report hasn't been yet used to decide policies by governments.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. Where on the scale do you think your country falls? Why do you think so?
  2. What could your country likely do to increase its rank? Please explain.
  3. If you could institute any change in your country, what would it be? Why?
  4. Of the six key factors, which do you think is the most important? Why?
  5. What sort of impact does the report really have on a government's planning? Why do you think so?

Google Search: Type "Happiness Report" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.


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