Israel Ranks 11th in UN 2018 World Happiness Report, Palestinian Territories at 114

Israel's healthy life expectancy rates made it to the top five countries in the yearly index as the U.S. drops four spots to number 18

Israelis on a Tel Aviv beach in July, 2017.
\ Moti Milrod

Israel was slated number eleven in the 2018 Happiness Report released Wednesday, the same ranking it was given in 2017. The Palestinian territories ranked 104 out of the total 156 countries.

Israel's life expectancy rates and health system made it to the top cohort five countries along with Japan, Korea, Switzerland and Italy. The report noted Israel's results are in line with the relatively high life evaluations but relatively low emotional well-being of its native population.

The survey, released every year by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, asks people to evaluate the quality of their lives on a scale of 0 to 10 and are based on Gallup World Poll surveys from 2015-2017. Finland emerged as the happiest place to live even though little sun and low temperatures are often blamed for high rates of depression, and bumped Norway off the top spot.

Europe’s Nordic nations, none particularly diverse, have dominated the index since it first was produced in 2012. In reaching No. 1, Finland nudged neighboring Norway into second place.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year. The analysis of happiness shows Togo as the biggest gainer, moving up 17 places in the overall rankings. The biggest loser is Venezuela, down 2.2 points on the 0 to 10 scale.

Overall rankings of country happiness are based on “income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity” as factors determining well-being.

This year, the annual report published by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network also evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants. John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, noted that all the countries in the Top 10 scored highest both in overall happiness and regarding the happiness of immigrants. He said a society's happiness seems contagious.

"The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born," Helliwell said. "Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose."

The report found Israel is in the list of the world's least accepting countries alongside Egypt, Iraq and Jordan in the Middle East. Most of such less-accepting countries are located in Eastern or Southeastern Europe and were "touched somehow by the recent migrant crisis," says the survey.

The study looked into what it considers a "previously unexplored" migration flow from Russia to Israel, a migrant population which evaluated their lives more positively post-migration but still suffers from problems in their new country.

The U.S., wrote the report, suffers from obesity, substance abuse and depression epidemics. "The U.S. is in the midst of a complex and worsening public health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards," the report said.