WASHINGTON – Israel ranked 14th in the United Nations' first World Happiness Report, conducted by Columbia University's Earth Institute.
Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands topped the list, while Benin, Central African Republic, Togo and Sierra Leone came in last. The United States ranked 11th, while the United Kingdom came in 18th.
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The 158-page report was commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness, which aims to "review the state of happiness in the world today and show how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness."
The report was based on findings published by the Gallup World Poll between the years 2005-2011, as well as three other surveys. The rankings compile a "life evaluation score," which is based on various factors including health, job security, political and personal freedom and corruption.
According to the report, "While basic living standards are essential for happiness, after the baseline has been met happiness varies more with the quality of human relationship than with income."
Jeffery Sachs, a prominent development economist at Columbia University who edited the report along with John Helliwell and Richard Layard, said that happiness could be achieved independent of economic well-being as measured by GNP.
"GNP (gross national product) by itself does not promote happiness. The US has had a three time increase of GNP per capita since 1960, but the happiness needle hasn't budged. Other countries have pursued other policies and achieved much greater gains of happiness, even at much lower levels of per capita income," Sachs said during a UN conference held earlier this week.
The report also listed a number of practical suggestions for governments to promote happiness among their citizens including helping people meet their basic needs, reinforcing social systems, implementing active labor policies, improving mental health services, promoting compassion, altruism and honesty, and helping the public resist hyper-commercialism.
Associated Press contributed to this report
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