This article appeared in the August 01, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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What makes a happy country?

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/File
Children hold Finland flags as they wait for the start of the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, Finland, on Feb. 22, 2017. For the second year in a row, Finland ranked first in the World Happiness Report.
Kim Campbell
Culture & Education Editor

Welcome to your Thursday Daily. Today you’ll find stories that focus on aspects of loyalty: to policies (health care), people (President Donald Trump), and ways of life – rodeos in the American West, sturgeon preservation in Romania, and a classic sport facing modernization.

But first, let’s talk about happiness, and why the United Arab Emirates wants more of it.

Ever since the United Nations launched its annual World Happiness Report seven years ago, countries have paid attention. The effort to study well-being grew out of concerns about the limitations of gross domestic product to measure growth. It soon became clear that wealthy countries weren’t always the happiest.

The 2019 report, released in March, has Finland at the top for the second year in a row, leading the 156 countries included. The United States ranked 19th, just two spots above the UAE. That country has increased efforts in recent years, including naming a minister of state for happiness, with some success. It has risen seven spots since the 2016 report and this week set a goal for even more progress.

In May, New Zealand became the first country to build a budget around measures for well-being. Though the underlying motives for such moves are sometimes debated, the collective effect is to increase the conversation around what should be included in the discussion of progress.

For John Helliwell, a Canadian economist and an editor of the report, moving the dial does not require any particular resource. “It’s about the way ... people think of each other, help each other, and treat each other,” he told the Monitor in 2018. “And that, of course, can be improved anywhere.”

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This article appeared in the August 01, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/01 edition