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Measuring and dating happiness

The rankings in figure 2.2 use data that come from the Gallup World Poll (for more information see the Gallup World Poll methodology).

The rankings are based on answers to the main life evaluation question asked in the poll.

Figure 2.2 shows the average residual for each country when the equation in Table 2.1 is applied to average 2015- 2017 data for the six variables in that country.

We combine these residuals with the estimate for life evaluations in Dystopia so that the combined bar will always have positive values.

The confidence intervals, as shown by the horizontal lines at the right-hand end of the country bars, show the range of values within which there is a 95% likelihood of the population mean being located.

These are useful to readers wishing to see whether countries differ significantly in the average life evaluations.

These residuals have an average value of approximately zero over the whole set of countries.

As can be seen in Figure 2.2, although some life evaluation residuals are quite large, occasionally exceeding one point on the scale from 0 to 10, they are always much smaller than the calculated value in Dystopia, where the average life is rated at 1.85 on the 0 to 10 scale.

The variables used reflect what has been broadly found in the research literature to be important in explaining national-level differences in life evaluations.

The sub-bars show the estimated extent to which each of six factors - levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption - contribute to making life evaluations higher in each country than they are in Dystopia, a hypothetical country that has values equal to the world’s lowest national averages for each of the six factors (see FAQs: What is Dystopia? They have no impact on the total score reported for each country, but instead are just a way of explaining for each country the implications of the model estimated in Table 2.1.

People often ask why some countries rank higher than others - the sub-bars (including the residuals, which show what is not explained) are an attempt to provide an answer to that question.

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