French ranked just ahead of Saudis in Happiness rankings

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French ranked just ahead of Saudis in Happiness rankings
Photo: Chariserin/flickr

France has been ranked a lowly 32nd in the latest World Happiness rankings, just two places ahead of Saudi Arabia. But what's the explanation?


The World Happiness Report 2016 was released this week and Denmark took the top spot out of 156 countries that were ranked by their happiness levels. 

France’s neighbour Switzerland was ranked second in the table, perhaps explaining why tens of thousands of French nationals now call Switzerland home.

France itself was down in 32nd position, one place behind Colombia, but thankfully it came in (just) ahead of Saudi Arabia – a country that executes dissidents and where women aren’t allowed to drive.

There was some consolation for the French however, as their neighbours Italy were ranked down in 50th place and Spain 37th.

The United States was ranked 13th and the United Kingdom 23rd.

Burundi propped up the table, just ahead of Syria.

The World Happiness Report 2016 looked at six factors: GDP per capita, social support (eg the possibility of being able to count on someone in hard times), life expectancy at birth, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption.

While France has good life expectancy and social support it scored fairly badly on generosity, which looks at the amount donated to charity, and perception of corruption.

Previous studies have found that the floundering economy, a loss of identity and a perception that the country is in decline have left the French mired in a “collective depression”.

Denis Gancel, who lead the study told The Local at the time that he was most intrigued by a gulf in attitude between two kinds of French person.

"There are there the traders and business people, who are outward-looking and at home in globalization, and they are quite optimistic. Then there are the traditionalist French, who feel disillusioned and pessimistic," Gancel said.

“This deep French depression is explained in large part by a sense of lost identity," he said.

For many, a return to traditional French values is the remedy, with work considered the most important of these (44 percent). Other bedrock values yearned for by the French include social justice (34 percent), and respect for people (30 percent).

The study came after an infamous 2011 poll found that the French were the world’s most pessimistic people and that pessimism in general was costing the French economy €20 billion a year.

In 2013 an academic study featured in The Local caused huge controversy by suggesting France's school system was to blame and that they would be far happier if they spoke better English.

But an in depth study last year turned these perceptions on their head by concluding the French were far happier than the Brits and even the Germans.

The study looked at "well-being equality" by calculating how equally happiness levels are spread across European countries. France, for all the perceived negativity regarding the economy, does better than many of its neighbours including the UK and Germany.




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