UN World Happiness Report

The Science of Happiness

Science-based principles and practices for a happy, meaningful life

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center


This free course taken by over 100,000 people is the first MOOC to teach the ground-breaking science of positive psychology, which explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from this science, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives. Students will learn that happiness is inextricably linked to having strong social connections and contributing to something bigger than yourself—the greater good. The cross-disciplinary research supporting this view, spanning the fields of psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and beyond.

The United Nations has finally confirmed what we've all known for years: that Britons really are a miserable bunch. The UN's General Assembly has released its World Happiness Report 2013, revealing the happiest countries in the world - and the UK is way down the list.


Denmark has topped the list of happiest countries, followed by Norway, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Austria, Iceland and Australia. While UK has failed to make the top 20 happiest countries in the world, the United States fares little better, coming in seventeenth. Other countries which have made the top 20 include Israel, Costa Rica, New Zealand, UAE, Panama, Mexico, Ireland, Luxembourg and Venezuela.


See the full UN 2019 World Happiness Report here


See the full UN 2018 World Happiness Report here


See the full UN First World Happiness Report 2012 here


See more on the  WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020


The World Happiness Report also identifies nations in six key areas: GDP per capita, years of healthy life expectancy,  perceptions of corruption, the prevalence of generosity, freedom to make life choices, and the availability of people to count on in times of trouble. The report suggests that systematic analysis of happiness, which can be a measure of social progress, can help improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development.

“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy is more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterise their lives. More and more world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and British Prime Minister David Cameron, are talking about the importance of wellbeing as a guide for their nations and the world.” 

The world is now in the midst of a major policy debate about the objectives of public policy. What should be the world’s Sustainable Development Goals for the period 2015-2030? The World Happiness Report 2013 is offered as a contribution to that crucial debate.


In July 2011 the UN General Assembly passed a historic resolution.

  1. It invited member countries to measure the happiness of their people and to use this to help guide their public policies. This was followed in April 2012 by the first UN high-level meeting on happiness and well-being, chaired by the Prime Minister of Bhutan. At the same time, the first World Happiness Report was published.
  2. The OECD Guidelines setting an international standard for the measurement of well-being.
  3. The present Report is sponsored by UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network established by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The scale of the global sustainable development challenge is unprecedented. The fight against extreme poverty has made great progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but more than 1 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty. Inequality and social exclusion are widening within most countries. As the world population is estimated to rise to 9 billion by 2050 and global GDP to more than US$200 trillion, the world urgently needs to address the sustainable development challenges of ending poverty, increasing social inclusion, and sustaining the planet.


Read about the Economic and Scientific aspects of The Mindfulness Foundations work.


Dr. Ha Vinh Tho is the Program Development Coordinator of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Centre, Bhutan.


In this video he talks about his work in Bhutan and how GNH directly addresses global, national and mental challenges by pointing to the non-material roots of wellbeing, enhancing human happiness and the wellbeing of all life.


See this talk by the Director of the Centre for Gross National Happiness


This new development model functions within planetary boundaries, without degrading nature or depleting the world's precious resources. Those resources will be distributed fairly and used efficiently. What is happiness? In the United States and in many other industrialized countries, it is often equated with money.


Economists measure consumer confidence on the assumption that the resulting figure says something about progress and public welfare. The gross domestic product, or G.D.P., is routinely used as shorthand for the well-being of a nation.