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Global Happiness: Which Countries are the Most (and Least) Happy?

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How much happier would you be if were given a 10% raise?

While money can be a crucial indicator of happiness at lower income levels, studies have found that as incomes rise, money becomes a less important part of the overall happiness equation.

In fact, researchers see happiness as a complex measure that involves many variables outside of material wealth, including social support, freedom, and health.

Measuring Global Happiness

Today’s chart uses data from the World Happiness Report 2018 to measure and understand which countries report feeling the most and least happy.

Global Happiness Countries Most and Least Happy

WHAT CONTRIBUTES TO HAPPINESS?

The six key variables used by researchers in this report on global happiness include:

  1. GDP per capita
  2. Healthy life expectancy
  3. Social support
  4. Freedom of choice
  5. Generosity
  6. Perceptions of corruption

While average income and life expectancy definitely carry their weight in explaining happiness levels, what’s more interesting are the Gallup World Poll (GWP) questions about the other, more subjective variables.

  • Social support
    “If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them?”
  • Freedom to make life choices
    “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?”
  • Generosity
    “Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?”
  • Perceptions of corruption
    “Is corruption widespread throughout the government or not?”
    “Is corruption widespread within businesses or not?”

HOW HAPPY IS THE WORLD?

The top tier of happiest countries happen to be Nordic, with Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland making it into the top five. Aside from having a common geographic location, these countries are also well-known for their social safety nets, using a high tax burden to fund government services such as education and healthcare.

A surprising entry near the top of the list might be Costa Rica. It’s the happiest country in the Latin American region, despite persisting income inequality issues. Although it has a lower GDP per capita than other high-ranking entries, the country has more than made up for it through social support; Costa Rica has invested significantly in education and health as a proportion of GDP, and the nation is also known for housing a culture that forms solid social networks of friends, families and neighborhoods.

On the other hand, 18 of the least happy countries are concentrated on the African continent. GDP per capita varies intensely among the bottom countries, and many report a lack of freedom overall. A silver lining is that social support is relatively stable, and there have been steady improvements over time.

Finally, the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis has had a ripple effect on global happiness. The report demonstrates where the most and fewest advances have been made.

  • Togo
    Happiness is on the upswing, as the West African nation climbs 17 places to demonstrate the most improvement.
  • Venezuela
    Meanwhile, the South American country plummeted even further, in part from socio-political changes and dramatic hyperinflation.

Where does your country fare on this scale?
Changes in Global Happiness Over Time

Eudaimonia [happiness] is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.

― Aristotle

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Data Visualization

Visualized: The Mass of the Entire Solar System

This interactive data visualization illustrates how the different planetary objects in our solar system compare based on their individual masses.

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Visualized: The Mass of the Entire Solar System

In space, everything feels weightless due to the lack of gravity.

So how do you measure the weight of objects in space? You don’t. When it comes to the cosmos, all that matters is mass.

Today’s interactive data visualization comes from Reddit user Ranger-UK, and is designed by Daniel Caroli. It delves into the different masses which make up our solar system, and how they all compare in size.

A Star Is Born

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Sun eclipses all other nearby objects by mass. At the heart of our solar system, this yellow dwarf’s gravity is what holds it all together.

The Sun actually makes up 99.8% of our entire solar system’s mass — and we’re lucky to be living in the other 0.2%. Responsible for all life on Earth, it’s no wonder that various cultures have worshiped the Sun throughout history, and even dedicated deities to it.

Currently in its middle years — the sun is over four billion years old, and it’s predicted to remain stable for another five billion years. After this, it will overtake the orbits of Mercury and Venus and then shrink back to the size of a white dwarf.

Out Of This World

The gas giants are all more than ten times as massive as Earth, even though they’re mainly made up of hydrogen and helium. They dominate the Solar System’s real estate — once the Sun is taken out of the equation, of course.

In order, here’s how the planets stack up:

PlanetCategoryMassRadiusDensity
JupiterGas giant1,898,600 x 10²¹ kg69,911 ±6 km1.326g/cm³
SaturnGas giant568,460 x 10²¹ kg58,232 ±6 km (*without rings)0.687g/cm³
NeptuneGas giant102,430 x 10²¹ kg24,622 ±19 km1.638g/cm³
UranusGas giant86,832 x 10²¹ kg25,362 ±7 km1.27g/cm³
EarthTerrestrial planet5,974 x 10²¹ kg6.371 ±0.01 km5.514g/cm³
VenusTerrestrial planet4,869 x 10²¹ kg6,051.8 ±1 km (*without gas)5.243g/cm³
MarsTerrestrial planet642 x 10²¹ kg3,389.5 ±0.2 km3.9335g/cm³
MercuryTerrestrial planet330 x 10²¹ kg2,439.7 ±1 km5.427g/cm³

Satellites Out of Control

The further away from the Sun you go, the more moons can be found orbiting planets. Earth’s singular moon is the fifth largest of almost 200 natural satellites found in the solar system.

Mars has two moons that don’t make it into the visualization above due to their low masses:

  • Phobos: 1.08×10^16 kg
  • Deimos: 2.0×10^15 kg

Here’s a breakdown of some other moons out there:

  • Jupiter
    Total named: 53
    Biggest moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io, Europa
    These four can be seen easily with some help from binoculars.
  • Saturn
    Total named: 53
    Biggest moons: Titan, Rhea, Iapetus, Dione, and Tethys
  • Uranus
    Total named: 27
    Biggest moons: Titania, Oberon, Ariel, Umbriel
  • Neptune
    Total named: 14
    Biggest moon: Triton, which is as big as the dwarf planet Pluto.

Pluto and some “leftovers” of the solar system lie in the distant region of the doughnut-shaped Kuiper belt, between 30 to 50 astronomical units (AU) away. Beginning at the orbit of Neptune, the belt encompasses some of those objects in the visualization categorized as “other”.

So far, we’ve only managed to set foot on our own moon. NASA’s Opportunity rover helped us explore the Red Planet virtually for over 14 years, while the Curiosity is still going strong.

Who knows what else lurks beyond the edges of our solar system?

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth… I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.

— Neil Armstrong, looking back at the Earth from the Moon (July 1969)

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Visualizing Internet Suppression Around the World

Freedom of speech on the internet has been on decline for eight consecutive years. We visualize the death spiral to show who limits speech the most.

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Visualizing Internet Suppression Around the World

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here

When people think of freedom, they often think it in the physical sense, such as the ability to act and behave in certain ways without fear of punishment, or freedom of movement within one’s country.

When a nation chooses to restrict freedom in the physical world, the results are often hard to ignore. Protests are met with tear gas and rubber bullets. Road checks pop up along transportation routes. Journalists are detained.

In the digital world, creeping control often appears in more subtle ways. Personal data is accessed without us knowing, and swarms of suspiciously like-minded accounts begin to overwhelm meaningful conversations on social media platforms.

The Freedom on the Net Report, by Freedom House, breaks internet suppression down into a number of elements, from content filtering to detention of online publishers. Here’s how a number of countries around the world stack up:

internet freedom by country

According to the report, internet freedom around the world has been falling steadily for eight consecutive years. Today’s graphic is an international look at the state of internet freedom.

First World Problems

At its best, the internet allows us to seek out information and make choices free from coercion or hidden manipulation. Even in countries with relatively open access to information this is becoming increasingly difficult.

In Western countries, internet suppression often rears its head in the form of misinformation and excessive data collection. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was a potent example of how the vast amounts of data collected by platforms and third parties can be used to manipulate public opinion.

The backlash to this data collection by tech companies also produced one of the most promising developments in the past year – the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While the regulations are not applicable to government and military entities, it does create a pathway to increased transparency and accountability for companies collecting user data.

Control Creep

Around one-third of the people in the world live in countries that are considered “partly free”.

For most users, access to online information may not look too different from the internet experience in Iceland or Estonia, but there are creeping controls in specific areas.

In Turkey, Wikipedia was blocked and social media companies were compelled to censor political commentary. The country had one of the largest declines in internet freedom in recent years.

In Nigeria, data localization requirements have been enacted. This follows the lead of places like China and Vietnam, where servers must be located within the country for “the inspection, storage, and provision of information at the request of competent state management agencies.”

Access Denied

For many people around the world – particularly in Asia – accessing information online is a fundamentally different experience. Content published by an individual can be monitored and censored, and online activity that would be considered benign in Western countries can result in severe real-world consequences such as imprisonment or death.

As today’s data visualization vividly illustrates, China has by far the most restricted internet of the 65 countries covered in the report.

Network operators in the country are obligated to store all user data within the country (which can be accessed by governmental bodies), and are required to immediately stop the transmission of “banned content”. The country is also further cracking down the use of VPNs, which are used to circumvent China’s Great Firewall.

Of course, China is not alone in the desire to implement tight controls over online access. Many places, from Vietnam to Ethiopia, are eager to embrace the “China Model”. The country, which is aggressively ramping up its influence around globe, is more than happy expand its influence through exporting models of governance to new technologies, such as facial recognition.

Meanwhile, in Russia, the popular messaging app, Telegram, was blocked due to its refusal to allow the country’s security service access to encrypted data. This example highlights a growing dilemma faced by tech companies operating internationally – acquiesce to government demands, or lose access to huge markets.

A Tale of Two Internets

Today, there are two prodominant flavors of internet on the menu – the Silicon Valley offering dominated by major tech companies, and the top-down, state-controlled version being spread in earnest by Beijing. It would be a mistake to believe that the former is the clear choice for jurisdictions around the world.

In many countries in Africa, communications infrastructure is still being built out, so assistance from Chinese companies is accepted with open arms.

Our Chinese friends have managed to block such media in their country and replaced them with their homegrown sites that are safe, constructive, and popular.

– Edwin Ngonyani, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication

Even though the internet is now three decades old, its form is still evolving. It remains to be seen whether the divergence between free and not free jurisdictions continues to grow.

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