Photo/IllutrationWorld Happiness Report 2018 (Yoshikazu Hirai)

On a global scale of happiness issued by the United Nations, Japan ranks 54th and Finland is in the top spot.

The survey, released March 14 by Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a U.N.-related organization, rated the happiness level of 156 countries and regions. Japan fell three notches from the previous survey.

Finland was followed by Nordic neighbors Norway and Denmark in the sixth edition of the World Happiness Report.

The annual survey canvasses the views of 1,000 or so respondents in each country or territory. They were asked to evaluate the quality of their lives on a scale of zero to 10.

A tally of the answers by respondents for the past three years was averaged for each country or region. The report reflects the period between 2015 and 2017.

Japan scored 5.9, while the Nordic countries, which take a huge proportion of people's incomes in exchange for a generous social security system, chalked up in excess of 7.5.

The report analyzes factors that contribute to each country's happiness level, such as gross domestic product per capita and healthy life expectancy, as well as answers to questions such as the level of social backup a respondent could expect.

One asked, “If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?”

“The survey is based on (each respondent’s) subjective view,” said Yoshiaki Takahashi, a senior research fellow of the Nakasone Yasuhiro Peace Institute, “The results reflect differences in the characteristics of each country or territory.”

Takahashi previously conducted a similar survey in Japan, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and the Philippines, asking people to evaluate their happiness levels on a scale of zero to 10.

In Costa Rica, which ranked 13th in the latest report, many of the respondents without hesitation chose the highest level of 10. In Japan, respondents tended to cautiously rate their levels, regarding 5 as the standard, according to Takahashi.

“I hope people don't focus too much on the rankings. The main thing is to think about happiness,” Takahashi said.

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Ranking of happiness 2015-2017

(Source: World Happiness Report 2018)

1. Finland

2. Norway

3. Denmark

4. Iceland

5. Switzerland

6. The Netherlands


18. United States

54. Japan

59. Russia

86. China


154. South Sudan

155. Central African Republic

156. Burundi