Qatar’s high living standards, life expectancy and a lack of corruption make it one of the happiest countries on the planet, according to a new international index.
The 2015 World’s Happiness Report ranks the Gulf country 28th out of 158 nations, a spot that Qatar has more or less maintained for the past few years.
The document is published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which is affiliated with the United Nations. It placed Qatar ahead of Saudi Arabia, which ranked 35th, as well as Kuwait, which came in at number 39.
However, the UAE continues to be the happiest GCC country, ranking 20th in this year’s report.
According to the authors, the UAE government’s commitment to making happiness a “national policy goal” is one of the reasons for its strong showing.
In December 2014, UAE prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said that “the first objective for the Dubai Plan 2021 is achieving people’s happiness,” the report stated.
He also addressed an open letter to all federal government employees, reminding them of their core mission to provide world-class services to the people of UAE with the goal of contributing to their satisfaction.
The highest-ranked countries in the world hailed from northern European countries, with Switzerland coming in first place, followed by Iceland and Denmark.
The unhappiest countries were located in Sub-Saharan Africa and included Burundi and Togo.
Syria, which has experienced violence, civil unrest and political turmoil since 2011 rounded out the three unhappiest countries in the index.
Report in numbers
To come up with its conclusions, the report surveyed at least 2,000 people in each of the 158 countries, evaluating each nation on a scale of zero to 10.
Countries that are the least happy had a score of 3.4 or less, while those that are the happiest came out with a score of 7.4 or more.
Qatar ranked close to the happiest countries at 6.6 points, coming just behind the happiest GCC country, the UAE, which got 6.9 points.
The ranking of happiness was based on six main factors:
- 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, adjusted for differences in income).
According to the report, GDP per capita was 25 times higher in the top 10 countries than in the bottom countries.
In the 2013 World’s Happiness Report, Qatar placed 27th from the years 2010-2012. Meanwhile in the first World’s Happiness Report issued in 2012, Qatar stood at 29th.
Saudi Arabia dropped only a couple of spots from 33rd in 2013, and the UAE fell to 20th from 14th, but still maintained its position as the happiest country in the region.
Most of the countries in the top and bottom 10 are the same as in the World Happiness Report 2013.
Qatar is part of 36 countries that didn’t witness any significant change in happiness in the last few years, while 53 countries saw significant improvements, and 41 grew significantly worse.
The report states that these differences appear to be based on the different reactions to the economic crisis, the quality of governance and social support. It continued:
“Countries with sufficiently high quality social capital appear to be able to sustain or even improve subjective well-being in the face of natural disasters or economic shocks, as the shocks provide them an opportunity to discover, use and build upon their communal links. In other cases, the economic crisis triggered drops in happiness greater than could be explained by falling incomes and higher unemployment.”
In early 2012, a Misery Index from the Economist also named Qatar the “least miserable” place to live in the world, given the low levels of unemployment and inflation here.
But in the same year, Qatar was given a rank of 149 out of 151 nations by Happy Planet for its negative environmental impact.