Global reports offer differing views on just how happy the country is.
The International Day of Happiness is celebrated every year on March 20, and was first introduced by the United Nations in 2013.
To mark the occasion, let’s take a look at Vietnam’s levels of happiness in reports compiled by global experts.
In the most recent index published earlier this month, Vietnam ranks 95th out of 156 countries in terms of happiness, according to the World Happiness Report 2018 (WHR), an initiative launched by the United Nations in 2012. This is a slight drop compared to last year when it ranked 94th.
The country also ranks 102nd in terms of changes in happiness, down 0.258 points from 2008-2010.
According to the report, the happiest country in the world is Finland, followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.
Vietnam’s WHR ranking this year is lower than in other Asian countries such as Singapore (34th), Malaysia (35th), Thailand (46th) and China (86th), but higher then in neighboring Laos (110th) and Cambodia (120th).
The WHR ranks countries according to six criteria: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption.
However, Vietnam’s WHR ranking doesn’t match the fifth position it was given on the happiness index of the 41st Annual Global End of the Year Survey (AGEYS) compiled by Gallup International Association, which was announced in January this year.
Not as in-depth as the U.N. report, the AGEYS index simply asks people how happy they feel in general. Seventy-eight percent of Vietnamese people, who are usually described as optimists, answered either “happy” or “very happy” about life, according to data from the polling organization, which is registered in Switzerland.
Another report which contradicts the WHR’s statistics is the U.K.’s 2016 Happiness Planet Index (HPI), which also listed Vietnam as one of the five happiest countries in the world.
The HPI, compiled by a U.K. based think tank, measures the happiness index of 140 countries using four criteria: life expectancy, wellbeing, ecological footprint and inequality.
In terms of methodology, the HPI differs from the WHR in two ways: the wellbeing index (which is gathered by asking individuals of each country how happy they feel) and the ecological footprint index (which measures the impact of people on the environment, the lower the score the better).
The reasons for Vietnam’s high position on the HPI chart are high life expectancy (75.5 years) and low ecological footprint. According to the index, Vietnam’s environment has not yet been overexploited by its people, which greatly influenced the ranking.
The HPI also points out that when Vietnamese were asked about their satisfaction with life on a scale from zero to ten, the average score was only 5.5.
Some might argue there’s no way to judge how happy a certain country is given the myriads of ways happiness can be defined.