Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent
The state of our world is shifting beneath our feet — economics alone no longer equate to satisfaction, let alone happiness.
Today’s visualization pulls data from the seventh World Happiness Report 2019, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. We’ve previously shown the variables used to measure happiness in this report, but here, we break down rankings by continent and region for a clearer picture of where each country lies.
Unhappy Americans have caused the country to tumble in rankings for a third straight year, despite evidence that things are generally looking up. The report attributes much of this erosion to a variety of addictions: opioids, workaholism, gambling, internet, exercise, and even shopping are among them.
Haiti is the least happy country in this region. The country is still struggling to rebuild sanitation infrastructure and other educational and healthcare programs, despite foreign aid.
In brighter news, Nicaragua is seeing great gains in happiness levels, as the country makes a concentrated effort to reduce poverty.
In South America, the majority of countries cluster around a score of six on the happiness scale.
The one notable exception to this is Venezuela, which is faltering in both happiness rank and regional improvement. The nation’s hyperinflation and humanitarian crisis both show no signs of slowing down.
Finland comes out on top of the world for a second consecutive year, and it’s not difficult to see why. The country boasts a stable work-life balance, bolstered by a comprehensive welfare state.
Scandinavian countries appear among the happiest nations for similar very reasons — elevating the region’s score to 16% above the global average.
On the flip side, Ukraine is the unhappiest, likely intensified by the ongoing war in southeastern Donbass. Greece is the least improved, as it continues to heal from the sovereign debt crisis.
Middle East and Central Asia
Uzbekistan shows the swiftest regional improvement, as the country has launched an ambitious reform agenda for greater economic, social, and political development and openness.
Unfortunately, Syria’s continued civil war comes with a heavy price for its people and economy, as does the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — although the latter doesn’t seem to impact Israel’s happiness ranking. In fact, Israel finished with the 13th best score, globally.
Rest of Asia and Oceania
In East Asia, the average happiness score is quite close to the global average, with Taiwan standing out as the happiest country.
Singapore out-competes other countries within Southeast Asia, despite only being home to a population of 5.6 million. Its neighbor Malaysia, however, plunged from 35th to 80th place.
Oceania stands alone – Australia and New Zealand are closely matched in their individual happiness scores.
The African continent as a whole fares 19.2% below the global average. But there are silver linings, with strong strides towards improvement being made.
Mauritius benefits from good governance and a buoyant tourism sector — with visitor arrivals equal to the island’s 1.3 million population. Meanwhile, Benin has soared in the rankings, and is supported by the World Bank in key structural reforms such as poverty reduction and access to basic services.
What could these rankings look like in another ten years?
Notes: The Africa map was updated to show more country scores. The report only covers 156 countries, so “Oceania” only refers to Australia and New Zealand in this instance.
Which Countries are the Most Polarized?
This chart plots polarization for various countries based on the Edelman Trust Institute’s annual survey of 32,000+ people.
Which Countries are the Most Polarized?
How do you measure something that’s made headlines for half a decade but is still difficult to quantify? We’re talking about polarization.
How Do You Quantify Polarization?
Edelman’s data on which countries are the most polarized comes from survey results asking respondents two very simple questions:
- How divided is their country?
- How entrenched is the divide?
The questions help bring to light the social issues a particular country is facing and the lack of consensus on those issues.
Plotted against each other, a chart emerges. A country in the top–right corner of the chart is “severely polarized.” Countries located closer to the lower–left are considered less polarized.
In the report, Edelman identifies four metrics to watch for and measure which help quantify polarization.
|Economic Anxieties||Will my family be better off in five years?|
|Institutional Imbalance||Government is viewed as unethical and incompetent.|
|Class Divide||People with higher incomes have a higher trust in institutions.|
|Battle for Truth||Echo chambers, and a low trust in media.|
Following Edelman’s metrics, countries with economic uncertainty and inequality as well as institutional distrust are more likely to be polarized. Below, we look at key highlights from the chart.
Severely Polarized Countries
Despite being one of the largest economies in Latin America, Argentina is the most polarized country surveyed by a large margin. Foreign loan defaults, a high fiscal deficit, and now surging inflation have created a perfect storm in the country.
43% of the Argentinian respondents said they will be better off in five years, down 17 percentage points from last year.
Along with fiscal upheaval, Argentinians are also dealing with enduring corruption in the public sector and abrupt policy reversals between governments. Only 20% of those surveyed in Argentina said they trusted the government—the least of all surveyed countries.
Here are all six of the countries considered to be severely polarized:
🇺🇸 United States
🇿🇦 South Africa
In the U.S., heightened political upheaval between Democrats and Republicans over the last few years has led to strengthening ideological stances and to an abundance of headlines about polarization. Only 42% of respondents in the country trust the government.
And in South Africa, persistent inequality and falling trust in the African National Congress also check off Edelman’s metrics. It’s also second after Argentina with the least trust in government (22%) per the survey.
Moderately Polarized Countries
The biggest cluster of 15 countries are in moderately polarized section of the chart, with all continents represented.
🇰🇷 South Korea
🇬🇧 United Kingdom
Some are on the cusp of being severely polarized, including economic heavyweights like Japan, the UK, France, and Germany. On the other hand, smaller economies like Thailand, Kenya, and Nigeria, are doing comparatively better on the polarization chart.
Less Polarized Countries
Countries with fair economic outlook and high trust in institutions including China, Singapore, and India are in the bottom left sector of the chart.
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
It’s interesting to note that of the seven countries in that sector, three are not democracies. That said, there are also more developing countries on this list as well, which could also be a factor.
Edelman notes that polarization is both “cause and consequence of distrust,” creating a self-fulfilling cycle. Aside from the four metrics stated above, concerns about the erosion of civility and weakening social fabric also lead to polarization.
As global events unfold in 2023—including looming worries of a recession—it will be fascinating to see how countries might switch positions in the year to come.
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