September 12, 2023

Who cares how happy the residents of cities and countries are?

More than 10 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 20 as the International Day of Happiness.

In 2013, first World Happiness Report – the most profound research was released. It is based on a survey of people: respondents are to rate how happy they are (with the best possible life for them being a ‘10’ and the worst possible life being a ‘0’).

CDP Center experts give a brief overview of current rankings of happiness in cities.

World Happiness Report 2023

World Happiness Report (WHR) is the largest global survey on the topic of happiness conducted by Gallup World Poll. Researchers announce that more than 100,000 people from 130 countries share their opinion every year. The typical annual sample for each country is 1,000 people, the researchers use responses from the last three years, meaning the 2023 report is based on 2020-2022 survey results.

The research group also developed a methodology for assessing the level of happiness at the country level: the influence of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption.

The ten-year retrospective of the study (2013-2022) allows us to observe the dynamics, to see how the self-assessment of the level of happiness by residents of the countries has changed. Unfortunately, after 10 years, people of only 54% of world countries rate their lives better than in 2013.

By the way, in the group of high-income countries (according to the World Bank - countries with a gross national income per capita of US$13,845 or more [2022]), among 46 countries with available data, only in 25 countries residents feel happier. In 20 countries the residents became less happy.

The global leaders in the growth of the Happiness Index since 2013 are Romania (+1.56 points on [0-10] scale), Bulgaria (+1.49 p.), Lithuania (+1.33 p.), Serbia (+1.33 p.) and Hungary (+1.26 p.). CDP experts consider that this growth indicates significant positive shifts in economic and social sphere in these countries over the past decade.

Interestingly, researchers assessed cities using a similar methodology in 2020 and released the report “Cities and Happiness: A Global Ranking and Analysis”. The report was based on a survey of city residents and their self-assessment of their lives - Gallup World Poll and Gallup US Poll.

A total of 186 cities in more than 160 countries, residents were offered to rate their life zero-to-ten scale. The conclusions may be of interest to teams involved in urban economics:

• happiness in cities is somewhat higher than in rural areas, especially in low-income countries;

• happiness inequalities are similar in cities and countries;

• respondents, when answering the question of how happy they are, very often take into account future prospects. So, people, when answering the question of how happy they are, give a higher rating if they are is positive and sure about their future!

In 2023 some more other studies were published that have their own point of view on assessing the happiness of city residents.

In the ratings, the following cities were most often indicated in the TOP group by the level of happiness: Toronto (Canada), Sydney (Australia), Helsinki (Finland), Zurich (Switzerland), Stockholm (Sweden), Brisbane (Australia), Aarhus (Denmark), Wellington (New Zealand), Copenhagen (Denmark), Bergen (Norway), San José (Costa Rica), Melbourne (Australia), Auckland (New Zealand), Washington DC (United States of America).

20 Happiest Cities in the World, by Insider Monkey

Another study of the level of happiness in cities ‘20 Happiest Cities in the World’, posted by 'Insider Monkey' in 2023, it bases its rating on weighing the key parameters in 4 categories - Quality of life, Subjective well-being, Work-life balance, Global city power.

The data for each metric was collected from reputable resources, including the ‘Monocle City Quality of Life Report’, ‘World Happiness Report’, ‘Inter Nation Expat City Index’, and ‘Global Power City Index’.

Based on the results of the study, the TOP 20 best cities in terms of happiness were identified.

The 'Insider Monkey' top5 cities are – Copenhagen, Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin, Stokholm.

Happiest City Index - Best Places to Travel (by iVisa)

Another team interested in the level of happiness in the cities is the online tourism-oriented service iVisa, who published “Happiest City Index - Best Places to Travel in 2023”. The team suggested that traveling to a city where people are happy is the best choice for any tourist.

Among the key factors influencing the level of happiness of city residents, they identified 5 key groups of factors: Life Expectancy, Sunshine (average yearly number of hours of sunshine), Working Hours, Friendly locals (data from Inter Nation's Expat Insider) and Cost of Living (by Numbeo).

Most likely, next year, the rating developers will change the weight of the Sunshine factor...😊

Based on the results of weighing these 5 factors for 40 cities, the ranking team identified Top-10 of the happiest cities where tourists are recommended to travel.

Happy City Index (by IQL)

A team of researchers developed a methodology for assessing the level of happiness of city residents by 24 factors, divided into 5 categories: citizens (education; social inclusion; creativity and inclusion; culture), economy (GDP and productivity; innovation and creativity; labour market; ICT; internationalization), governance (involvement of residents in decision-making processes; transparency and openness; public e-services; conscious strategies), environment (natural resources; anti-pollution; waste and water management;  green areas; protection of biodiversity), mobility (ICT in transport; accessibility and efficiency of public transport; safety of the transport; openness of transport data; availability of multimodal transport).

In accordance with this methodology, 198 cities were divided into 4 groups according to the level of happiness of their citizens:

• golden “happiest” cities - 23 cities;

• silver cities – 76 cities;

• bronze cities - 99 cities.

In our opinion, each of the ratings is important and reveals some new approach to the topic.

We consider that it is important to understand not only the current satisfaction with life, but also to understand how happy the people believe or expect they will be in future. This directly affects their plans and desires to develop and grow with the city.

The dynamics of the level of happiness of citizens is first of all important marker for building a more harmonious city policy.

It is likely that the use of new AI and BD technologies can significantly support and open new horizons of happiness monitoring. Analysis of the reactions of people in social networks and in the Internet potentially allows to assess life satisfaction even at the level of small towns and settlements.

Dear colleagues, when using the materials of the article, please refer to the source CDP center.

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