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Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Tracks the World's Happiness

Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is a global initiative for the United Nations that engages scientists, engineers, business and civil society leaders, and development practitioners for evidence-based problem solving. It promotes solutions initiatives that demonstrate the potential of technical and business innovation to support sustainable development.

Since 2012, Gallup's World Poll has been a primary source of global data behind the life satisfaction rankings released in SDSN's highly publicized World Happiness Report.

So far, SDSN has published eight reports.

Why Measuring Global Happiness Matters

The Challenge

Help Global Leaders Track and Lead Progress in Their Nations

The most famous statistics -- GDP, household income and unemployment -- focus on the rational side of what people do: what they spend, how much they make and whether they have a job. Traditional metrics like these do not tell us anything about people's happiness.

Leaders can no longer assume that the lives of those in their countries improve with a rise in GDP, as was shown in the Arab countries where GDP was increasing but residents' ratings of their lives trended downward ahead of the uprisings.

Leaders need more inclusive metrics to effectively track and lead the progress of their nation. The World Happiness Report is the first report to rank countries by how their populations feel.

"Happiness can change, and does change, according to the quality of the society in which people live."
John F. Helliwell is one of the chief editors of the World Happiness Report. Helliwell is a senior fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia.
The Approach

Collaborate With External Luminaries to Change Lives

Producing the World Happiness Report takes the collaboration of a wide array of experts.

The Gallup World Poll powers the life evaluations that serve as the foundation for the annual happiness rankings and contributes to the content and reach of the World Happiness Report.

In addition to being a data partner, Gallup has often consulted on the report, co-authoring chapters in a number of years -- including for the 2018 report, in which Gallup consultants lent their expertise to exploring the happiness of migrants worldwide.

The Outcome

Transform the World by Measuring Happiness

Since its launch in 2012, the World Happiness Report has continually garnered worldwide media attention. The report has been featured in NPR, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, U.S. News and World Report, Newsday, Men's Health and Smithsonian. It is Gallup's most downloaded and widely cited data. The findings demonstrate that wellbeing and happiness are critical indicators of a nation's economic and social development.

In 2014, the International Society for Quality of Life Studies awarded the World Happiness Report the award for the Betterment of the Human Condition. Gallup itself earned this award in 2017.

More and more world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others, now talk about how important wellbeing is as a guide for their nations. In 2018, for example, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans to include the wellbeing of New Zealanders as a measure of her country's economic success.

"The World Happiness Report has proven to be an indispensable tool for policymakers looking to better understand what makes people happy."
Jeffrey Sachs, SDSN Director