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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Saturday, 13.07.2024, 04:59

Happiness measurements for reaching sustainable goals

Eugene Eteris, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 15.03.2020.Print version
As a universal goal, the relevance of happiness is recognized in many countries as a vital means for reaching citizens’ well-being. Importance of this recognition in public policy requires an active state’s objectives and priorities towards more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development.

The UN General Assembly in 2012 (according to resolution 66/281 of 12 July 2012), proclaimed 20 March the International Day of Happiness, recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives. It also recognized the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples.

The resolution was initiated by Bhutan, a country which recognized the value of national happiness over national income since the early 1970s and famously adopted the goal of Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product. The country also hosted a High Level Meeting on "Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm" during the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

Happiness’ concept

Each year, a group of experts from numerous states makes a “global rank” among about 150 countries based on how “happy” citizens are. However, happiness is not only an elusive concept to quantify, but there are some scientific approaches as well: when people are talking about “happiness”, they are generally referring to satisfaction with the way their life is going on.  Among European states, the Nordic countries - Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland have consistently topped the global happiness index in all six areas of life satisfaction: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. Whereas, for example, the United States are generally occupying around 18th or 19th place in the global rank.


It is well-known that happiness indices are closely connected to SDGs.  It was known that the European Green Deal, EGD implementation shall be costly; not all member states can really afford “green transition”. In particular, Central and Eastern EU countries are going to face some financial difficulties. At the EU’s leaders summit at the end of 2019, aimed to officially start EGD, only Poland voiced its objections, which meant that  a unanimous approval shall be reached at the next summit.

Baltic States in the World Happiness Reports

The first “happiness report” was released in April 2012; it presented the available global data on national happiness and reviewed related evidence from the emerging science of happiness, showing that the quality of people’s lives can be coherently, reliably, and validly assessed by a variety of subjective well-being measures, collectively referred to then and in subsequent reports as “happiness.” 

well-being inequality, as measured by the standard deviation of the distributions of individual life evaluations, was lowest in Western Europe, Northern America and Oceania, and South Asia; and greatest in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa. 

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During last four years, the dynamics of happiness increase in Eastern and Central Europe from about 5,5 rank to about 6; with the slightly reducing dynamics of negative effects. Considering  happiness inequality, the latest reports argue that just as income is too limited an indicator for the overall quality of life, income inequality is too limited a measure of overall inequality. For example, inequalities in the distribution of health have effects on life satisfaction above and beyond those flowing through their effects on income. The reports have found that the effects of happiness equality are often larger and more systematic than those of income inequality: thus, social trust, often found to be lower where income inequality is greater, is even more closely connected to the inequality of subjective well-being. Six key variables include: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption. 

In the ranking of happiness among the Baltic States, the highest is in Poland (40), Lithuania (42), Latvia (53) and Estonia  (55). 


Globally recognized 2020 World Happiness Report underlined the advantage of using happiness measurements for guiding policy making and for helping to assess the overall well-being in all states. At the same time, the sustainable development goals, SDGs are designed to help countries to achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives in harmony, thereby leading to higher levels of well-being for present and future generations.  

The 2020 World Happiness Report will be released on March 20 on the International Day of Happiness. 

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