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The happiest countries in the world might not be where you expect

VIDEO: Pharell “Happy” via YouTube

Clap along if you know what happiness means to you! Yes, it might seem crazy what I’m about to say, but Africa just polled as the happiest region, according to Gallup. 83%, an overwhelmingly high percentage of people polled, reported that they were content with their lives. I am embarrassed to admit that if I were to have guessed which region was the happiest, I would have guessed the Nordic nations.

Looking at the Gallup poll, one can safely surmise that the developed nations are less happy than the developing nations. Western Europe polled at 11% for happiness, remember that compares to Africa at 83%. That is a strikingly vast gap between the two numbers. What is it that African people are doing that Western Europeans are not?

This led me to think about how one might define happiness, and on a self-deprecating level - challenge my own presumptions on happiness. I went so far as to look up the definition in a dictionary, because really, what does happiness mean? It’s “a state of well-being and contentment”. Yes, but what does that mean? Maybe, it’s all this worrying about the definition that’s keeping me from being happy?

Well however you define happiness, it seems that the continent of Africa has it figured out. Now let’s see what other surprises this Gallup poll has in store.

Africa is the happiest region with 83%. (Yes, I just said this, but it bears repeating)

Asia is the second happiest region at 77%

The least happy regions are Oceania with 14%, The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with 13%, and Western Europe with 11%

Rabaa al-Adawiya protests via Wikicommons

Finland is the happiest nation in Europe with 80%, whereas Greece is the least happy with 24%

Finland's Repovesi National Park via wikicommons

Fiji is the happiest nation with 93%, (this has just become my next vacation choice for obvious reasons)

Fiji Music Show via wikicommons

Nigeria is the most positive country with an 85%.

Nigerian woman and baby via wikicommons

MENA at 27% and Western Europe at 26% are the most pessimistic.

Greece anti austerity protests on May 1, 2010, from Joanna via Flickr

Africa at 75% and Asia at 63% are the most optimistic about this upcoming year.

Image credit: UN Photo / Kibae Park


On my way home from work on the New York City subway, I thought about the advertisements and billboards I see every day that ever so slyly invade our lives. They constantly bombard you with insinuations that you are not happy unless you buy something. This is consumerism at its finest. Then I thought about the cultural differences between Western Europe and Africa, it makes sense to consider that happiness is a relative term then. Everyone is different and unique and has different ways of making themselves happy. Pharrell’s music video portrays a very diverse group of people, but they all feel the same thing- happiness. Maybe it’s not important how we define it then, but rather that people can simply say, from their own view that they are happy. With this idea, I congratulate the region of Africa and hope I can raise my own happiness to their standards.

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Joline Faujour