Where are the happiest Germans?: survey

The levels of happiness in eastern and western Germany used to differ strongly a few years ago, but that gap is closing, according to this year's "Atlas of Happiness" survey carried out by the Deutsche Post.

While in many parts of the world happiness is a purely abstract concept, Germans  have come up with a method to measure it. The results from the 2017 yearly survey on life satisfaction, called the "Glücksatlas" (or the "Atlas of Happiness"), have been published on Tuesday.

Germans consider themselves happy

The study, which has been carried out annually by Deutsche Post since 2010, asked a representative sample of 1,001 participants from 19 German regions to mark their contentment in dozens of categories on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest level of well-being.

Glücksatlas 2017 book cover

While some questions deal with matters that people can influence themselves, most revolve around issues that depend on external circumstances, such as the employment situation.

Germans rated their overall satisfaction with 7.07 points this year, a result only slightly lower than last year's.

Read more: Albert Einstein's note on happiness sells for $1.3 million at Jerusalem auction

Gap between East and West reducing

The gap between the happiest and the unhappiest regions is smaller than ever, with 0.6 points: The people in Schleswig-Holstein top the ranking, with 7.43 points, while Saxony-Anhalt's population comes last in the listing, with 6.83 points.

In western Germany, the value dropped by 0.05 points in comparison with last year, while eastern Germany's results improved marginally. The gap between former West and East Germany thereby decreased to 0.22 points, while it had 0.28 points in 2016. A 0.5-point gap between the west and the east of the country was measured in 2004.

The survey also observes the situation abroad, and Germany ranks ninth in the European context of happiness, just like the previous year.

Read more: Germans far more optimistic than EU neighbors

Focus on sustainability

What is the relationship between happiness and a sustainable lifestyle? That was the main focus of this year's survey. It had been proven in previous editions that people who are more satisfied with their lives are much more actively involved in social or environmental affairs.

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Almost all Germans said that ecology is extremely important for them and they feel nature and greenery are crucial for good living. On the other hand, only two-thirds of the respondents consider it important to make a personal contribution to the environmental or social field, while not only a fifth of them participate actively.

If you're happy and you know it

New number one

Norway has knocked its Scandinavian neighbor Denmark off top spot in this year’s ranking. Norway has invested its considerable revenues from oil money in the future rather than spending them in the present, thereby avoiding "the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies," said the report.

If you're happy and you know it

Sense of community

Nordic countries regularly top the ranking because of their understanding in the common good, according to Meik Wiking, chief executive officer of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Alongside Norway and Denmark, three more northern nations - Iceland (3), Finland (5) and Sweden (10) - were among the top ten happiest countries.

If you're happy and you know it

European performances

Switzerland (4) and Netherlands (6) were the other European countries to make the top ten. Germany remained in 16th place for the second year in a row, while the United Kingdom advanced four spots to 19th this year.

If you're happy and you know it

Americans getting sadder

In 2007, the USA ranked 3rd among the OECD countries. This year, the country dropped one spot to 14 in the overall ranking, which was produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption, said the report.

If you're happy and you know it

Where are the others?

China (79), Russia (49) and Japan (51) were able to move up their listings from last year, while India (122) slipped down this year.

If you're happy and you know it

Wars robbed their happiness

Civil wars in Syria and Yemen have hijacked the happiness of the citizens of both countries, putting their names in the bottom ten least happy nations in the world.

If you're happy and you know it

Africa in crisis

Eight of the bottom ten countries in the ranking are from Africa. The list rated 155 nations on the basis of six factors -- "caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance." The Central African Republic came out as the least happy country in the world.

If you're happy and you know it

Bhutan – the initiator

The UN has produced the report each year since 2012 after a proposal by the tiny country secured support. Bhutan wanted to recognize happiness as a universal goal and as a guiding principle for public policies. In the same year, the UN also declared March 20 as the International Day of Happiness. Bhutan is at 97 in this year's ranking, down 13 places from the previous year.

jt/eg (dpa, AFP)

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