Is the world becoming a happier place?

(Hint: not really)

The world grows richer every year. And we’ve long known that GPD per capita and Life satisfaction are strongly correlated. In fact n 2018, the UN had [estimated]( to regression estimates of,of the variance in happiness.) that a 1% change in GDP per capita causes a 0.3 unit change in happiness.

I wanted to know, not if the GDP and happiness and correlated, but if as a whole the world is getting happier. And in particular if the countries that are growing the fastest are also winning at the happiness game.

Calculating a happiness score for the world

The World Happiness Report is an initiative by the United Nations that uses data the Gallup World Poll that surveys people across the world about their self-reported happiness with life. The survey question asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0, and to place a number in the overall satisfaction of their life.

The Happiness Report is compiled per country. You can access the dataset of Happiness Reports all the way back to 2005 here. For all years between 2009 to 2019, I calculated the “World Happiness Score” as the Total Happiness Score for all countries surveyed (given by the population of that country in that year times its happiness score) divided by total population of the surveyed countries.

World Happiness Score = Total happiness score/Total population of surveyed countries

The World is not becoming happier. In fact, one can say that it is (2019) slightly unhappier (3%) that it was in the previous 10 years. I was surprised by the outcome, for 3 reasons: