Global Happiness Policy Report Released

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NEW YORK, February 15 – The first volume of the Global Happiness Policy Report contains the first endeavors by the Global Happiness Council, chaired by the SDSN’s Jeffrey Sachs to assemble best practices for happiness policy. A companion to the World Happiness Report (WHR) – reporting the who and why countries are happy – the Global Happiness Policy Report helps to fill the gap on the how to help countries in well-being with the science of happiness and policy applications. The policy report was presented at World Government Summit held in Dubai on February 10, 2018.

Following a stage-setting introduction and an overall synthesis by Professor John Helliwell, the policy report delivers findings from six expert teams. Professor Helliwell highlights that “this report is a distillation of ideas and experiments all over the world”. The six theme chapters fall naturally into two groups of three chapters each. Chapters in the first group focus on best practices for happiness policies within the context of a national or sub-national government-namely, health, education, and employment. Chapters in the second group each address cross-cutting issues that are likely of interest to multiple ministries and to the center of government: personal happiness, cities, and measurement. Examples follow from each of the six theme chapters.

The report includes the following chapters:

  • Good Governance in the 21st Century by Jeffrey Sachs
  • Global Happiness Policy Synthesis 2018 by John Helliwell
  • Mental Illness Destroys Happiness and Is Costless To Treat by Richard Layard
  • Positive Education by Martin Seligman and Alejandro Alder
  • Work and Well-being: A Global Perspective by Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
  • Social Well-Being: Research and Policy by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener
  • Happy Cities in a Smart World by Aisha Bin Bishr
  • Countries’ Experiences with Well-being and Happiness Metrics by Martine Durand

This year’s health chapter focuses on mental illness, since it is one of the main causes of misery worldwide. Chapter author, Richard Layard highlights, “that good treatments exist, enabling happier and more useful lives at a negative net cost.”

The education chapter emphasizes positive education. In schools, teaching positive psychology has radically improved the happiness of pupils in countries as various as Peru, China, Bhutan, and Australia.

Good jobs are central parts of happy lives. Many examples show that increasing staff engagement increases job satisfaction and reduces costly job turnover. “For communities, the crucial issue is the structure of social connectedness” said chapter author, Robert Biswas-Diener. Connectedness and trust create happier communities free from isolation and loneliness.

Jeffrey Sachs highlights that “people are rich, but they are not happy”. The cities chapter explores best practices on effective combinations of economy, mobility, environment and social connections to understand happiness in cities and urban environments.

To make human happiness the overall guide to human progress requires good data on the quality of human lives, something still lagging in the framework of national statistics in most countries. Better data in turn enables improved understanding of what makes for happier lives, and better ways of choosing among the policy options.

Much can be done within families, firms and schools. But much larger gains can flow from collaboration across the range of government, supported by central commitment that enables and rewards cooperative efforts to convert aspirations to happier lives. An appendix to the volume summarizes more than 100 of the policy ideas surveyed in this report. Converting the best of these ideas into reality needs the support of an action plan – practical guides for implementation, one of the objectives for Global Happiness Report 2019.