Southeast Asia Happier Than East Asia Says UN Report

The inhabitants of all East Asian nations are less happy than those of Southeast Asia, according to the 2013 World Happiness Report released Monday by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The world’s happiest nations are all located in western Europe, according to the report prepared by a research team at Columbia University’s Earth Institute by drawing on Gallup Polls and the UN Development Index.

Denmark is the world’s happiest nation for the second consecutive year with 7.693 points, followed by Norway (7.655), Switzerland (7.650), the Netherlands (7.512) and Sweden (7.480). The scores were calculated by adding components measuring healthy life expectancy, per-capita GDP, social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perception of corruption.

Considered by entire regions, the happiest is North America and Australia/New Zealand with a cumulative average score of 7.133 compared with the global average of 5.158. Following in order are Western Europe (6.703), Latin America & the Caribbean (6.652), Southeast Asia (5.430), Central & Eastern Europe (5.425), Commonwealth of Independent States (5.403), East Asia (5.017), Middle East & North Africa (4.841), South Asia (4.782) and Sub-Saharan Africa (4.626).

The highest ranked Asian nation is Singapore in 30th place on the strength of its high GDP, a strong social-support system and an unusually corruption-free government.

Thailand is ranked the second happiest among Asian nations in 35th place, followed by S. Korea at 41st, Taiwan at 42nd and Japan at 43rd. Vietnam (63rd) is just ahead of Hong Kong (64th). Philippines (92nd) is just ahead of China (93rd). India is 111th while Cambodia is the lowest ranking Asian nation at 140th, near the bottom of the list of 156 nations.

Surprisingly, the US came in 17th, considerably below neighbor Canada (6th) and just below Mexico (17th).

The report is intended to help nations focus on policies that will help improve the lives of their people. It was released just ahead of opening of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly.