The 2015 World Happiness Report has been released, ranking the happiest people in the world according to nation. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network produced the study, which looks at several factors that affect the mental well-being of people around the globe.

Gallup World Poll data collected between 2012 and 2014, containing data on people from 150 nations, was used in the study. A "subjective well-being" index was compiled for people from each country, ranking the countries on a scale of one to 10, with divisions between the rankings as small as 0.001. This regular report started in 2012, and a new edition has been released every 18 months since that time.

Income is one of the factors examined in the study, along with charitable giving, life expectancy, availability of social support and perceptions of both personal freedoms and corruption in business and government.

Income was found to account for as much as one-third of the difference between feelings of well-being between richer and poorer nations. Researchers quantified income by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. This number was found to be 25 times higher in the wealthiest nation than in the poorest.

Switzerland was ranked highest in the happiness index, with a ranking of 7.587, followed by Iceland (7.561) and Denmark, which came in at 7.527. In 2013, the last time these numbers were tabulated, Denmark was ranked as the happiest nation on Earth. The United States ranked 15th on the list, just behind Mexico.

The least happy country in the world was the nation of Togo, which earned a rating of 2.839, behind Burundi (2.906) and Syria (3.006).

Greece suffered great financial losses during the recent recession, a fact that may have resulted in that country showing a drop of almost 1.5 points, the largest downturn seen in the study. It ranks 102nd on the list.

The average score in the top 10 countries is 7.4, that is more than twice as high as the bottom 10, which come in at an average of 3.4.

Social support and the ability to network with friends were found to be among the most important factors in determining the well-being of people in various nations. The effects of difficult downturns in the economies of Ireland and Iceland were mitigated in those countries by widespread social support among the citizens.

Researchers who developed the rankings hope their research could assist governments in better understanding feelings of well-being in their countries.

"The people who design our institutions and govern our lives need to pay attention. If there is a broad public understanding of the evidence and its implications, then the political process starts to take more notice," John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia said.

Data presented in the report could also be used by national leaders around the globe to analyze perceptions of happiness in various regions around their own countries, researchers stated.

The complete 2015 World Happiness Report may be viewed online at worldhappiness.report.

Photo: Geir Tønnessen | Flickr

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