Photograph — National Academies

African countries are among the unhappiest nations in the world according to the latest edition of the Global Happiness Report.

The report, released by the Global Happiness Council to mark the annual International Day of Happiness yesterday, ranks countries on six key factors that support wellbeing. These include income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.

According to the report, the unhappiest nation is South Sudan, where a bloody civil war leaves 60 percent of the people facing food insecurity and has claimed the lives of an estimated 400,000 people.

Featuring at the bottom of the table also is the conflict-ridden Central African Republic (CAR) along with Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi and Botswana.

Regional economic powerhouse Nigeria ranks 85 of 156 nations, while South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia take the 106th, 121st and 134th positions respectively.

The happiest country in the sub-Saharan region, Libya, occupies the 72nd position.

A decline in world happiness

The report warned that world happiness has declined in recent years, largely driven by a sustained fall in India, which ranked in 140th place this year.

“This has coincided with a rise in negative feelings comprising worry, sadness and anger, especially marked in Asia and Africa, and more recently elsewhere,” the report said.

The United States also continued its slide of recent years, dropping one spot to 19th place. “This year’s report provides sobering evidence of how addictions are causing considerable unhappiness and depression in the US,” one of the report’s authors, professor Jeffrey Sachs explained.

Happiest countries in the world

Finland came first as the happiest country in the world for the second year in a row, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands. Along with the Nordic countries, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand and Austria also made the top ten.

According to one of the editors, John Helliwell, what stands out about the happiest and most well-connected societies is their resilience and ability to deal with bad things.

“After the 2011 earthquake and now the terrorist attack in Christchurch, with high social capital, where people are connected, people rally and help each other and (in after the earthquake) rebuild immediately,” Helliwell added.

As well as performing well on all the indicators, the most content countries all tended to have very stable societies, with happiness levels changing comparatively little.

This is the seventh World Happiness Report with the first released in 2012.

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