What are the happiest countries in the world?
Life expectancy, quality of health and education services, and access to nature and culture all play a role in how happy we feel.
This article explores these important life evaluations which affect the standard of living for the residents of the happiest countries.
The Happiest Countries in the World
We’ve formulated the ranking of these countries on the World Happiness Report, created by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Here’s our list of the 10 happiest countries in the world:
With its rich cultural heritage and lush mountain landscapes, Austria is a nation of contrasts to match its high standard of living.
The capital city, Vienna, has been ranked as the most livable capital city in the world according to the Quality of Living Rankings in 2019.
High-quality education, medical care, and leisure facilities are matched with countless museums, concert halls, and other outstanding entertainment venues.
There’s plenty of history in both Vienna and throughout Austria, its Habsburg traditions reflected in opulent architecture, as well as world-class Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings.
Move away from the urban centers, and you’ll find snow-capped mountains and the ski resorts of the Central Alps, where residents flock all year round for fresh air and relaxation.
A culture of bike riding contributes to Austria’s overall happiness and well-being and a healthy life expectancy of just under 82 years.
With a strong social support system and good governance, Austria continues to draw in visitors and consistently appears in the top ten for happiness rankings.
9. New Zealand
Filmmaker Peter Jackson became one of the richest directors in the world thanks to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which featured the breathtaking landscapes New Zealand has to offer.
These natural attractions contribute to the overall happiness levels and well-being of its citizens, who number around 4 million in a country the same size as Japan.
Residents enjoy an outstanding work-life balance, and the year-round pleasant climate undoubtedly contributes to their mental health and happiness.
New Zealanders also enjoy an exceptional diet, with one of the world’s most expensive foods, manuka honey, produced in the country.
With copious amounts of seafront and beaches to enjoy, there’s a strong culture of water sports, with some of the world’s best surfers regularly visiting the country’s 120 kilometers of coastline.
Visitors looking for a spot of nightlife can find everything they need in the capital city, Wellington, which is also home to the New Zealand government.
The small country of Luxembourg, which sits between Belgium, France, and Germany, is known for its exceptionally diverse population.
With around 640,000 citizens, Luxembourg delivers a high quality of life and standard of living most other countries in the world can only dream of.
Its recent ranking on the World Happiness Report in eighth place can be accounted for in part due to its high GDP per capita, a statistic driven by its dominant financial sector.
Despite its small size, Luxembourg is steeped in history and culture, with the city of Luxembourg itself featured on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
A culture of cycling helps to keep its residents in shape, complemented by a range of other outdoor activities and pursuits.
Levels of perceived freedom are high, with life expectancy and quality medical care matched by a government committed to social support.
This healthy work-life balance is helped by the mandatory five weeks of vacation time offered to residents, which helps to alleviate any stress from the high-pressure jobs in the nation’s capital.
Sweden has a reputation as one of the most liberal countries in the world; its residents are given the freedom to make life decisions that contribute to the country’s happiness.
This freedom was reflected in the findings of the World Happiness Report, where fewer COVID-19 restrictions contributed to higher deaths when compared to their Nordic neighbors.
Nevertheless, the country still experiences high social support and life expectancy, with the concept of social equality deep-rooted in their education system.
Sweden is also one of Europe’s cultural hotspots, with a vibrant music scene and architectural tradition spanning centuries.
Perhaps Sweden’s most famous export today is in the world of digital entertainment, with Swedish YouTube star Pewdiepie’s net worth sitting at an impressive $40 million.
The Swedish government offers a range of benefits that improve well-being and help make it one of the world’s happiest countries, with 16 months of paid leave when a new child enters the family.
The country also has lots of green spaces, extensive forests, and thousands of lakes, giving nature lovers plenty of options to get away from the city and clear their heads.
While Norway once occupied the second-place spot on the World Happiness Report back in 2013, it still offers more than enough to retain a place in the top 10 today.
It’s one of the safest countries in the world to live in, with an exceptionally low crime and incarceration rate, which is reflected in the population’s contentment and happiness.
The jaw-dropping scenery, which includes vast lakes, dynamic fjords, and the Northern Lights, can be explored easily thanks to their Allemannsrett law, which gives everyone the freedom to roam.
Norway’s urban centers are as pleasant as their wilderness, with the capital city Oslo surrounded by forested hills and keeping its residents connected with nature,
As with other Scandinavian countries, Norway is leading the way in the race to go green, and electric cars are beginning to dominate their well-maintained roads.
A high GDP per capita, excellent education services, and universal health care all help make Norway a well-loved place to live and visit.
5. The Netherlands (No. 5 in Happiest Countries in the World)
Gaining a score of 7.415 on the World Happiness Report from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Netherlands is known for having the best work-life balance in the world.
Excellent education, high life expectancy, low crime rates, and a high level of disposable income all contribute to its status as a leader in global happiness.
There’s a fascinating history to explore along with its rich and studied artistic heritage, with the Netherlands even boasting the oldest national anthem in the world.
With the Netherlands home to some of the richest DJs in the world, you can expect a vibrant nightlife and music scene, particularly in the capital Amsterdam.
The capital is famous for its tree-lined canals and perhaps infamous for its sex museums and cafés, which nevertheless draw in thousands of tourists every weekend.
Beyond culture, there are more than just the stereotypical images of Dutch windmills and tulips from Amsterdam to enjoy, with a multitude of museums to explore, including the open-air Zaanse Schans.
As with the other countries featured here, the Netherlands is committed to building a thriving green economy, as well as offering extensive social support to improve its residents’ quality of life.
4. Iceland (No. 4 in Happiest Countries in the World)
Iceland has consistently outperformed most other countries in the world when measuring well-being and happiness, from jobs and healthcare to environmental quality and civic engagement.
The country has revitalized itself since the 2007 financial collapse, with the government taking huge strides in delivering services that improve the lives of its citizens.
With stunning natural beauty including towering volcanoes, pastoral fields, and ice-capped glaciers, Iceland is one of the most photogenic countries you’ll find.
Hot springs draw visitors from around the world, while the gorgeous fjords help create an otherworldliness to the landscapes.
The capital city Reykjavik has earned a reputation as one of the most cultured cities in Europe, its fine dining establishments, theaters, and other entertainment venues drawing in tourists.
Away from the city, the Golden Circle road trip, which encompasses Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Geysir, offers a must-see snapshot of Iceland’s visual splendor.
While the cost of living in Iceland is certainly high, those who can afford to live there will find a place that is ideally suited for happiness and well-being.
3. Switzerland (No. 3 in Happiest Countries in the World)
With its world-renowned Alpine ski resorts, it’s not hard to see why Switzerland is among the most sought-after holiday destinations in the world.
As you’d expect, given its popularity among tourists, it’s an exceptional place to live, with the fresh mountain air and high standard of living helping it achieve its high rank on the happiness index.
Well known for its banking sector and high-end watches, Switzerland offers residents a range of social support programs, while the government consistently ranks among the least corrupt on the planet.
As one of the most expensive countries to live in, Switzerland offers its citizens the wide range of amenities you’d expect from a country with a high GDP.
While the Swiss are known for being rather insular when it comes to dealing with outsiders, the social fabric which holds them together is tightly knit.
This extends to their appreciation for democratic principles, with votes being held on everything from immigration levels to how many vacation days per year its citizens should be allowed.
It’s not shy on the cultural front, either, and as well as being the home to the Dadaist art movement, the country hosts numerous music festivals each year, from classical music to rock and dance festivals.
2. Denmark (No. 2 in Happiest Countries in the World)
At one point, the happiest country in the world, Denmark scores highly across all metrics in the annual survey and remains one of the most desirable places to live.
With a high level of confidence in the government, Denmark delivers a comprehensive social support system for its residents, with free education and health care respected for its high quality.
With a World Life Expectancy ranking of 23, quality of life is further enhanced by Denmark’s natural beauty, which is easily accessible from the towns and cities.
Holidaymakers in Denmark can take advantage of the white sand beaches or go for hikes in the forests, while the country’s history is represented in the many castles and palaces.
Capital city Copenhagen offers a wide variety of cultural outlets, with some of the most forward-thinking architecture in the world, including a giant complex designed to look like LEGO.
Denmark is also committed to renewable energy production, with over one-third of its energy derived from wind power and a culture of cycling in the cities.
Economic security, freedom of speech, and a healthy work-life balance are some of the other factors which make Denmark’s residents report high levels of happiness.
1. Finland (No. 1 in Happiest Countries in the World)
The happiest country in the world currently ranks as Finland, which has retained its place in the top spot for the fourth year in a row.
Finland hits all the right notes when it comes to work-life balance, social services, and all-around quality of life, matched with an impressive GDP per capita.
Where the country truly excels is in its education system, which emphasizes experiential learning over quantitative testing, and requires all teachers to hold a master’s degree.
Finland’s capital, Helsinki, is one of the most futuristic cities in the world, leading the way in exciting technological developments, including point-to-point transportation systems and healthcare drones.
Away from the cities, Finland’s natural resources are abundant, with seafronts and lakes offering a range of water sports and forests for those who prefer hiking and camping.
Visitors also flock to the country for the impressive Northern Lights, which light up the skies in autumn and spring with green, blue, and purple hues.
It’s a Mecca for winter activities, including rides with huskies, igloo stays, and visits to Santa Claus to entertain children.
With residents who consistently report high levels of well-being and a social structure that values freedom, Finland outperforms all other countries on the happiness index.
The happiest countries in the world offer high life expectancy and strong social support, with bustling city life and beautiful countryside to escape to.
This article should help inspire you to find somewhere truly special to visit on vacation or even relocate if you’re feeling adventurous.
Here’s also a quick recap of the 10 happiest countries in the world:
- New Zealand
Which one of the happiest countries in the world would you like to visit? Leave a comment below.
Also Read: The 10 Most Powerful Passports in the World
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