Happiness is a personal feeling, yet certain elements universally foster a joyful community, as highlighted by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
For over a decade, this NGO has assessed the life quality of citizens from 150+ countries, considering factors like social ties, earnings, health, liberty, altruism, and minimal corruption.
The Nordic stars—Finland, Denmark, and Iceland—consistently shine the brightest in these rankings. Intriguingly, even amidst global challenges, such as the Ukraine conflict, the world’s overall contentment mirrors that of the pre-pandemic era.
Professor Richard Layard, the visionary behind the Wellbeing Programme at the London School of Economics and the report’s chief editor, emphasized, “Our ultimate aim?
A society brimming with happiness. This is achievable when we spread joy to others, not just seek it for ourselves. This vision encompasses the well-being of upcoming generations and our mental peace.”
Dive in to discover the top 10 nations that have seemingly cracked the code to societal bliss.
Why Are Some Nations More Joyful than Others?
The World Happiness Report sheds light on this, identifying six pivotal factors that delineate the happiness spectrum among countries:
- Economic Strength: Measured by GDP per capita, it represents the total goods and services produced by a country, averaged per person.
- Vitality and Well-being: Derived from World Health Organisation data, it not only considers the lifespan but also the quality of physical and mental health throughout one’s life.
- Reliable Companionship: As per the report, it’s about having a reliable shoulder to lean on during challenging times.
- Life’s Autonomy: This gauges individuals’ sentiments about their freedom, encompassing rights irrespective of race, gender, nationality, language, or religion. It embodies fundamental rights like life, liberty, freedom from oppression, freedom of speech, and access to work and education.
- Spirit of Giving: It reflects a society’s inclination towards altruism and the inherent desire to uplift others.
- Trustworthiness Quotient: It’s not just about the perception of governmental integrity but also the faith citizens have in their nation’s commitment to ethical governance.
10. New Zealand: The Resilient Paradise
Holding its ground at the tenth position, New Zealand continues to be one of the world’s happiest havens. The nation’s post-COVID reopening in April 2022 ushered in a wave of visitors, propelling some sectors beyond their pre-pandemic zeniths.
But it’s not just the impressive GDP that keeps the Kiwis smiling. Even urban dwellers in New Zealand are blessed with a stone’s throw access to pristine beaches, serene lakes, and lush vineyards.
Moreover, when pitted against other OECD nations, New Zealand shines brightly in numerous well-being dimensions, be it education, health, or active civic participation.
9. Luxembourg: The Petite Powerhouse
Luxembourg, having graced the top 10 happiest countries list at the sixth spot last year, has slid to the ninth position in 2023, scoring 7.228. Don’t let its size fool you!
Though it might be one of Europe’s tiniest and sparsely populated territories (akin to Rhode Island in size), Luxembourg boasts a title many larger nations envy: one of the globe’s richest in terms of GDP per capita.
The nation’s high safety standards, robust public trust, and rich cultural tapestry (with half its residents hailing from foreign lands) weave together to create a harmonious and joyful society.
8. Switzerland: The Alpine Euphoria
Even though Switzerland has descended four places from last year, it remains a sanctuary for some of the world’s most content and healthiest souls. The reasons?
A harmonious blend of low crime rates, an enviable GDP per capita, and the mesmerizing mountain vistas that beckon outdoor enthusiasts all year round.
The World Happiness Report reveals an interesting Swiss sentiment: their joy is closely tied to “prosociality.” Acts like volunteering and philanthropy are not just traditions but a way of life here.
7. Norway: The Nordic Nirvana
Norway’s happiness quotient is palpable. Offering its citizens tuition-free education, impressive income levels, minimal corruption, and a sturdy social safety net, it’s no wonder Norway consistently shines in the top 10 happiest countries list, even clinching the top spot in 2017.
But it’s not just the societal structures that uplift spirits. The country’s natural bounty, from majestic fjords and towering mountains to verdant forests and serene lakes, coupled with the magical spectacle of the northern lights, ensures that Norwegians have a plethora of tranquil retreats to rejuvenate their souls.
6. Sweden: The Resilient North Star
Climbing up to the sixth position this year, Sweden has showcased resilience. Even though the nation witnessed a higher COVID-19 mortality rate compared to its Nordic neighbors, its happiness score experienced a slight uptick from the previous year.
With air and environmental pollution levels being the second lowest after Finland, Swedes enjoy a healthier life expectancy, as per OECD data.
Couple this with a robust employment landscape and commendable gender equality (surpassing 80%), and it’s clear why life in Sweden feels so fulfilling.
5. Netherlands: The Blooming Bliss
Holding steady at fifth place with a score of 7.403, the Netherlands continues to enchant. Beyond its iconic tulip fields that spread joy, the nation’s economy has been lauded for its tenacity and impressive rebound, outshining many EU counterparts, as highlighted by the International Monetary Fund.
Affordable tertiary education, a thriving job market, a deep-rooted sense of community, and active civic participation further cement the Dutch’s cheerful disposition.
4. Israel: The Meteoric Rise
Israel’s ascent in this year’s rankings is nothing short of remarkable, leaping five places to secure the fourth spot—its zenith since the report’s inception in 2012.
This meteoric rise is attributed to Israel’s swift post-COVID economic resurgence, with a 6.5% growth in the economy and a 4.4% surge in GDP per capita.
Beyond economics, the Israeli spirit thrives on robust social bonds and an impressive life expectancy, as underscored by OECD data.
3. Iceland: The Serene Sanctuary
Iceland, often referred to as the Land of Fire and Ice, isn’t just a haven of happiness; it’s also a beacon of safety and equality. Topping the charts in the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, Iceland proudly boasts of bridging over 90% of its gender disparities. But what’s the secret behind the Icelandic euphoria?
A prosperous income, a rock-solid economy, minimal corruption, a generous heart, complimentary education, and an unwavering community spirit are just a few ingredients in their recipe for contentment.
And, of course, being surrounded by some of Earth’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders undoubtedly adds to their daily dose of joy.
2. Denmark: The Hygge Haven
Scoring a commendable 7.586, Denmark proudly holds its second-place spot this year. The land where ‘hygge’ (coziness) is a lifestyle mantra showcases that high taxes don’t equate to a discontented populace.
Yes, the Danes do shell out Europe’s steepest personal income tax, hovering around 56%. But here’s the silver lining: in return, they enjoy a robust social welfare system.
From gratis education to complimentary health care, the perks seem to keep the Danish spirits high and content.
1. Finland: The Beacon of Bliss
For an impressive sixth time, Finland has clinched the title of the world’s happiest nation. Even though its score dipped a tad from 7.821 to 7.804 this year, it’s still miles ahead in the happiness race.
But here’s the twist: Finland isn’t hoarding its happiness recipe. The nation is rolling out a “Masterclass of Happiness” to guide folks in discovering their “inner Finn” and embracing the Finnish mindset.
What’s in store? Expert coaches will guide participants to bond with nature, all set against the serene backdrop of Kuru Resort in the Lakeland region, a haven of breathtaking landscapes and tranquil lakes.
Why Nordic Countries Rank So High?
The consistent high rankings of Nordic countries in global happiness charts have left many intrigued. Year after year, nations like Finland, Denmark, and Iceland, followed closely by the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway, dominate these lists.
And while the chilly climes might initially deter some, there’s clearly more to the story than meets the eye.
At a glance, the allure of the Nordics might seem perplexing. But delve deeper, and the reasons become evident:
- Robust Government Support: The backbone of their happiness lies in the strong safety nets their governments provide. From universal healthcare to free education, the state ensures that the basic needs of its citizens are met without causing financial strain.
- Safety and Security: Low crime rates in these countries mean that people can live without the constant fear of harm, leading to a more relaxed and trusting society.
- Generous Leave Policies: The emphasis on family and personal well-being is evident in their leave policies. Take Sweden, for instance, where new parents can avail a whopping 480 days of leave at nearly full pay. Such policies ensure that individuals don’t have to choose between their careers and personal milestones.
- Work-Life Harmony: Rather than a mere balance, the Nordics prioritize harmony between work and life. This ensures that individuals have ample time for personal pursuits, relaxation, and family, which are crucial for mental well-being.
- Community and Togetherness: A strong sense of community and the emphasis on collective well-being over individual success ensures that people feel supported and valued.
- Natural Beauty: While the cold might be a deterrent for some, the breathtaking natural landscapes, from fjords to northern lights, offer a daily dose of nature’s therapy.
The Shadows of Global Joy: The Unhappiest Countries
While the spotlight often shines on the world’s happiest nations, the World Happiness Report also casts a somber light on regions where contentment seems elusive.
A pattern emerges among these nations:
Predominantly, they are situated in underdeveloped regions, bearing the scars of wars, armed confrontations, political upheavals, or natural calamities.
Topping this melancholic list for yet another year is Afghanistan. The ravages of prolonged warfare, coupled with its dismal life expectancy and a struggling economy, have cemented its position at the bottom.
Following closely is Lebanon, grappling with its own set of challenges. A dwindling life expectancy, curtailed freedoms, and rampant corruption have pushed the nation towards the lower end of the happiness spectrum.
Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo complete the quintet of the world’s most despondent nations.
The Ten Nations Seeking Light:
- Sierra Leone
- Democratic Republic of Congo
Happiness, while deeply personal, is also shaped by the environment, governance, and societal structures we live within. The World Happiness Report offers a mirror to nations, reflecting where they shine and where shadows persist.
While the Nordic countries exemplify the zenith of societal contentment, others serve as poignant reminders of the work that lies ahead.
In the end, the pursuit of happiness is universal, and every nation, regardless of its rank, has stories of resilience, hope, and joy.