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The 20 Happiest Countries in the World

By Staff Writer
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Where you live partially determines your chance of living a happy life. The residents of these countries are living the "good life" according to their self-reported happiness levels. The "World Happiness Report" is an annual study that determines the overall happiness of the people who live in each of the 156 countries reviewed. The report is based on a three-year average of surveys taken by residents, which include questions related to GDP, life expectancy, family life, friendships, perceived freedom, and emotional life. Here are the results of the report and an explanation of what in particular makes these ten countries the happiest in the world.

01

Finland

Finland is the happiest country in the world according to the "World Happiness Report." This Northern European country sports long, cold winters, which probably contributes to the unusually high happiness of its residents. According to professor John Helliwell, a Canadian economist, a group of people who face challenges together, in this case, the difficult winters, form much closer relationships. These more intense, deeper relationships foster happier people.

Residents of Finland benefit from a high GDP, excellent social programs such as free or low-cost higher education, and a high life expectancy. Finish people also have lower expectations for happiness which makes them more content with less. A combination of these factors makes Finland the happiest country in the world.

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02

Denmark

Denmark is the second happiest country in the world, according to the report. The Scandinavian nation is extensively developed, both socially and economically, and boasts highly ranked education and healthcare systems. The country has the highest-rated social mobility, the movement of individuals and groups of people through a society's social strata, in the world.

The high-quality social interactions shared by residents of Denmark are the largest contributor to its high happiness ranking. Finnish people value quality time spent with family and friends, known as hygge, to a very large degree. Making these types of relations a priority benefits people in several ways, including lowering stress levels and increasing trust among peers. These cultural aspects of Denmark contribute to its spot as the second happiest country in the world.

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03

Iceland

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Iceland is the fourth happiest country in the world, according to the report. This Nordic, volcanic island country stays cold year-round and contains a unique mix of mountains, glaciers, sandy land, and lava fields. It provides universal health care and higher education for its citizens and features relatively low taxes. Iceland ranks highest in the world in median wealth per adult. It ranks first on the global peace index.

The people of Iceland share a tight bond that only small-community living can provide. Even with the country's economy nearly facing collapse as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis, residents' happiness levels stayed relatively unchanged due to their close communal ties. This social solidarity keeps Icelanders satisfied and feeling good. These ingredients help make Iceland the fourth happiest country in the world.

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04

Switzerland

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Switzerland is the sixth happiest country in the world. The country contains a part of the Alps, the highest and largest mountain range in Europe. It features the highest nominal wealth per adult in the world and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product. The country uses four separate traditional languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. The average life expectancy in the country is an impressive 82.8 years old!

Switzerland provides its citizens with excellent health care featuring low wait times and access to the best medical technology, as well as one of the best welfare programs in the world. The country's government is widely considered to be the closest example of true democracy in the world.

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05

Netherlands

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The Netherlands is the fifth happiest country in the world, according to the "World Happiness Report." The country is mostly located in Europe but also includes three island territories in the Caribbean. It has long been known for liberal social progress with its progressive drug policies and legalization of abortion, prostitution, and euthanasia.

Residents of the Netherlands have an open and direct demeanor and no-nonsense attitude. They also work far less than people in most other nations. In the Netherlands, more than 50 percent of people work part-time. This may be a large part of what makes the Dutch so happy. These reasons make the Netherlands the fifth happiest country in the world.

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06

Luxembourg

Luxembourg isn't just a happy country, it's one of the happiest in Europe. There are a lot of reasons for this, though most of them are easy to predict. Luxembourg has spent decades as one of the richest countries in the world, with only around 4 million residents and plenty of international banking to run the very well-off economy.

Luxembourg is also ranked 10th for freedom of life choices, 12th for life expectancy, and a not-too-shabby 34th for its citizens' personal generosity.

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07

Sweden

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Sweden is the seventh-happiest country and the largest country in Northern Europe. It enjoys a mild climate with warm summers. The country's welfare system provides tertiary education and universal health care to all citizens, and the government offers five weeks of paid vacation to employed residents.

In Swedish, the word lagom roughly translates to "not too much, not too little." The meaning of this term does well to capture the Swedish mindset of the ideal being the perfect amount. This is reflected in the country's economy in that there isn't as much of a low-income and extreme wealth split. Swedes have enough to be comfortable, and security allows them to enjoy a life well-lived. These ingredients help make Sweden the seventh-happiest country in the world.

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08

Norway

Norway is the third happiest country, according to the "World Happiness Report." This Eastern European country has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world. It has the world's highest human development index ranking, a composite rating consisting of life expectancy, education level, and income. The country also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Norway's citizens have a term—sted bundet—which means "place-bound." Families in Norway often stay in the same area for multiple generations, passing their homes on to their children rather than moving around. This creates a strong communal spirit, with multi-generational relationships often forming between those who live in close proximity. This combination of cultural elements helps make Norway measure up as the third happiest country in the world.

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09

Israel

The Middle East isn't on most people's list of happy places, but there is one country that stands out like an oasis in the desert, at least on this list. Israel scores consistently high in happiness-adjacent categories such as life satisfaction, economics, public and personal health, and social support networks.

Israeli citizens also come near the top of the list for generosity to their countrymen.

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10

New Zealand

New Zealand is the eighth happiest country in the world. The Southwestern Pacific Island country consists of two larger islands and around 600 smaller islands. The country was one of the latest areas of Europe to be settled by humans. New Zealand and Denmark are tied as having the least amount of corruption.

New Zealand showcases some of the most beautiful terrain in the world, with forests making up 30% of the country. It has tranquil mountains and beautiful beaches in addition to the green countryside it's most famous for.

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11

Austria

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Austria is the tenth happiest country in the world according to the "World Happiness Report." This mountainous Central European country was ranked 20th on the "Human Development Index" and is one of the richest countries in the world base on per capita gross domestic product. Health is a high priority for Austrians. Even visiting foreigners receive free health care. The country also boasts a 95% literacy rate.

Austrians consider family relationships extremely important. Many Austrians do not leave their parents' homes until after university, and often elderly people live with their children for the remainder of their lives. Strong family ties and a strong economy are some of the factors which make Austria the tenth happiest country in the world.

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12

Australia

Looking around at the sun, the sand, and the surf, it's almost impossible to believe that the first Australians were sent to their island continent as a punishment. Today, roughly 230 years after the ships full of unhappy people started arriving, Australians report high levels of financial security, good personal relationships, and an overall sense of purpose.

They've also got koalas, which is not nothing.

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13

Ireland

At first glance, a country whose name means "the land of ire" is not a likely candidate for being one of the happiest countries in the developed world, but at a 7 out of 10, Ireland is well above the 6.5 European average.

The surprising economic boom Ireland experienced in the 2000s brought a lot to be happy about to a historically downtrodden country, including economic security, solid public services, and a bit of free time to enjoy the rain.

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14

Germany

Germany doesn't have a reputation for national happiness, but the culture has always had a solid, very efficient approach toward enjoyment and merriment. It's easier to be happy in Germany than in most countries.

The land of the Rhine has a very high standard of living, a strong economy, and a centuries-old culture (several cultures, actually) that make it easy to find a festival or steinhoist somewhere.

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15

Canada

Canada ranks ninth according to the "World Happiness Report." The North American country shares its southern border with the United States and is the world's second-largest country. It has the sixteenth-highest rating of nominal income per capita and features the tenth-largest economy in the world. Its economy benefits greatly from its plentiful natural resources and extensive international trade agreements.

Canadians form strong social ties with family, friends, and co-workers, one of the most important aspects of human happiness. According to a study at Berkeley University, people who make strong social relationships a higher priority than personal achievement and individual goals are overall happier. These factors contribute highly to Canada's spot as the ninth happiest country in the world.

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16

United States

The world's biggest superpower is, surprise, surprise, also a happy country. The only nation in the world that was actually founded on the principle of the pursuit of happiness has the world's largest economy, freedom of speech, and so forth, plus plenty of opportunity for ambitious go-getters.

For more than 100 years, the United States has been a top destination for migrants looking for someplace they can get a new start.

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17

United Kingdom

Happiness in the United Kingdom really isn't the kind of happy-happy that has people dancing in the streets, though Morris dancers do just that at English cultural festivals every spring. Rather, the happiness of the UK tends to be a matter of adjusted expectations.

In polls, British people describe what makes them happy as cute puppies, clear skies, and natural landscapes. Two out of three are widely available in Britain, which is pretty good.

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18

Czech Republic

For broad cultural reasons, it's rare to hear a citizen of Czechia say "jsem šťastný" ("I'm happy"), but rather the more common "spokojený" ("content" or "okay"). By local standards, Czechs are indeed spokojený. Polling by Eurostat puts Czech contentment at an average of 7.4 out of 10, which is pretty spokojený by European standards.

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19

Belgium

Belgium is the land of Europe's second-best beer (after Germany), its second-best French soap operas (after France), and the second-best waffles (after the countries that have American-style waffle houses). It's only the 7th-happiest European country overall, but that's just in general.

What makes Belgians stand out is the degree to which they say they're happy. More than 1 in 3 Belgians give their happiness a whopping 8/10, which makes happy Belgians the happiest people on earth.

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20

France

Smiling like Americans and "saying the cheese" is not popular in France, where being happy in public is a minor social faux pas, like spilling the lait or burning the hot-dog (which is what hot dogs are called in France). Rather, happiness in la belle France is much more of a private affaire.

Expressions of joy are largely to be shared with famille et amis proches, rather than étrangers, who might think you unsophisticated. Still, France has a 35-hour work week, lots of paid time off, excellent wine, slightly more accordion music than is advisable, and a countryside so beautiful almost any picture of it would look great on un calendrier mural.

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21

Honorable mention: Bhutan

For most countries on this list, happiness has been largely measured by the level of material comfort people enjoy. High GDP, lots of holiday pay, subsidized child care, and so forth, help with the daily bread, but there's more to life than cash, and happy people do not live by bread alone. Which brings us to Bhutan, which wasn't included in the most recent happiness polls due to a technicality.

By any measure, Bhutan is a desperately poor country. Its biggest industry is asking for foreign aid. What this tiny Himalayan kingdom lacks in human development, however, it more than makes up for in having an intact ancient culture that makes its people feel at home. unlike everyplace else in the world, Bhutan has avoided the blue-jeans-and-basketball-shoes material modern world in favor of intact families and healthy village life. Which, frankly, doesn't sound so bad.

Share to Pinterestview of the Tiger's Nest monastery also known as the Paro Taktsang and the surrounding area in Bhutan.
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