And the world’s happiest country is ... Norway

The UAE climbed to 21st place this year, while Qatar was 35th with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also ranking in the top 40 happiest countries.

Children during a parade on the National Day in Oslo, Norway on May 17, 2016. Norway was declared the top country in the World Happiness Report 2017 released on March 20, 2017. NTB Scanpix/Terje Pedersen/via Reuters
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NEW YORK // A chilly climate isn’t keeping Norway from basking in the glow of being named the world’s happiest country.

It surged from fourth place in last year’s UN assessment all the way to the top spot, according to the World Happiness Report 2017 released on Monday.

Other top countries on the list included Nordic neighbours Denmark and Iceland, as well as nearby Switzerland.

“All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance,” the summary explained.

Rounding out the top 10 were Finland in fifth place, the Netherlands in sixth, Canada in seventh, New Zealand in eighth, and Australia and Sweden tied for ninth.

The entire top 10 were affluent, developed nations, although money is not the only ingredient for happiness, the report said.

In fact, among the wealthier countries the differences in happiness levels had a lot to do with “differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships: the biggest single source of misery is mental illness”, the report said.

“Income differences matter more in poorer countries, but even their mental illness is a major source of misery,” it added.

The UAE climbed to 21st place this year, up from last year’s 28th place.

Qatar was 35th with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also ranking in the top 40 happiest countries.

Another major country, China, has made major economic strides in recent years. But its people are not happier than 25 years ago, the report found. China ranked 79th in the study of 155 countries.

The United States meanwhile slipped to the number 14 spot due to less social support and greater corruption – the very factors explaining why Nordic countries fare better on the happiness scale.

Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg welcomed the report as “a nice validation on a Monday morning”.

“For many years, Norway has been behind Denmark in this ranking,” she said.

“But even if we top this statistic now we continue to prioritise mental health care, to improve follow-up of children and young people because many are still struggling,” she said on Facebook.

The World Happiness Report 2017 was released by the United Nations on the International Day of Happiness. It is the fifth such report since the first was published in 2012.

* Agence France-Presse