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Younger people in many nations are struggling and less happy than the oldest generations, according to a list of the world’s happiest nations.

This is also true in the three Gulf countries named among the top 20% in the World Happiness Report, an annual barometer of well-being in 143 nations coordinated by Oxford University’s Wellbeing Research Centre, Gallup, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The report, which looked at 2021 to 2023, calculated each country’s happiness score by measuring GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption. It not only looked at individual nation’s happiness scores, but also broke it down by generation, focusing on under 30s, 30 to 45, 45 to 60 and 60+ years old.

The report found that in the majority of countries younger generations were struggling more than their older peers.

In comments that connect this research to the recent ‘The Mental State of the World in 2023’ report, which found that the earlier that children were given smartphones the more they struggled with their mental health, Dr Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general, told the Guardian newspaper “allowing children to use social media was like giving them medicine that is not proven to be safe.”

He said the failure of governments to better regulate social media in recent years was “insane”. He told the newspaper the findings should be “red flag that young people are really struggling in the US and now increasingly around the world” and that younger generations were suffering from a “midlife crisis”.

The Happiest and least Happy Nations on Earth

The top 10 countries have remained much the same since before COVID. Finland is still top, with Denmark now very close, and Iceland in third, all five Nordic countries are in the top 10. But in the next 10, there is more change, with the transition countries of Eastern Europe rising in happiness (especially Czechia, Lithuania and Slovenia). Partly for this reason the United States and Germany have fallen to 23 and 24 in the rankings.

Afghanistan was the least happy nation on the planet, followed by Lebanon and Lesotho at the bottom of the rankings.

Happiness in the GCC

Kuwait, a new entry in this year’s World Happiness Report, topped GCC scores, coming in at 13th in the world, the United Arab Emirates sat comfortably in the top 5th of all nations researched at 22, above the US, Germany and France, and Saudi Arabia came in at 28. Bahrain was ranked 62nd, Qatar and Oman were not included in the report.

Older Generations Happier than Younger

In many, but not all, nations younger generations were less happy than their older peers.

The United Arab Emirates jumped to 11th in the global rankings for the 60+ generation ahead of Kuwait, which was 13th for the same generation, whereas Saudi Arabia climbed one spot to 27. Bahrain climbed to 61 but this age bracket was the least happy in that country, according to the report..

Finland, Denmark and Norway had the happiest 60+ respondents, Afghanistan, Zambia and Lebanan anchored the rankings.

The happiest young people in the world – under 30 – could be found in Lithuania, and the least happy, again Afghanistan. For Kuwait this age group dropped to 13th, the UAE to 35th, and in Saudi, 42nd. Bahrain’s young people slipped out of the top half of the table to 77.

The least happy age bracket in Kuwait, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia was the lower middle bracket, those aged between 30 to 35.

Men vs Women

Globally women reported more life satisfaction than men, which has consistently been the case every year since 2014.

The Middle East and North Africa region is the only region in the report in which women had outscored men since 2006.