The 10 Happiest Countries in the World
1. FinlandFor the fifth year in a row, Finland is number one when it comes to happiness. The country consistently ranks among the top education systems in the world, occasionally beaten out by countries like South Korea, Japan, and Singapore. Much of that success comes from a widespread reverence for teachers, who are required to have a master’s degree (their education is state-funded), and a pedagogical system that focuses less on quantitative testing and more on experiential learning and equal opportunity.
Their work week is shorter than ours, and their vacations are longer. Folks lucky enough to live in Norway get out of work early to pursue their passions, including activities such as hiking, biking, hanging out with their kids, and socializing with friends. As reported in The Nation, Norway fuses the concepts of democracy and equality. The result is less income disparity, and more job satisfaction, as well as a heightened sense of trust in elected officials. Also: An easy equality exists between men and women, which helps ensure the absence of a glass ceiling. Don’t forget that Norway has some magnificent Northern Lights shows.
Denmark remained in the number two spot this year. The country rates near the top in all the reported metrics—life expectancy, social support, and generosity among them—but it is also a country hugely committed to renewable energy production. A recent study from the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute narrows down Denmark’s happiness to a number of different categories, including trust in the government, economic security, freedom, civil participation, and work-life balance.
The most sparsely populated European country, Iceland boasts an enticing mix of ancient tradition and modern economic growth. Iceland is the land of the midnight sun, but also, of ever-darkening winter days and bitter cold. Could the reason for the country’s outlook be found in the water? According to the New York Times, Iceland’s communal pools—all heated, many by natural hot springs—are the heart of each community, fostering well-being, and camaraderie during the harshest winter months.
Switzerland is a country where everything is voted on, from how many vacation days workers should have to how many immigrants should be allowed into the country, and referendums down to the local level happen many times a year. This system of direct democracy means that Swiss citizens feel an unparalleled sense of participation in their country’s evolution. The Swiss are known to be insular, and it can be off-putting to first-time visitors, but there is a strong social fabric held together by a belief that every voice matters, which can go a long way toward feeling content.
Maybe the Netherlands gains its happiness through the pleasure of knowing that their farms help feed millions of people outside the country’s borders. Their national commitment to sustainable agricultural practices has yielded a greener way of life throughout the society; this commitment extends to the way babies are born, according to NPR. Most Dutch women choose a home birth over a hospital one, and only 8 percent use pain medication. The people of the Netherlands are also notoriously welcoming of others, embracing cultural diversity, and immigrants from many nations.
Our northern neighbors are baffled by the United States vicious political campaigns; Canadians do not relinquish their manners or legendary niceness during their campaigns. And their work-life balance puts as much emphasis on life as it does on work; family and friends take precedence.
Their taxes are high, but their health care and higher education are free. Swedes are committed to making sure that the people who live there get the training they need to adapt to an ever-changing, technological landscape. Plus, everyone is always smiling. Their legendary happiness may be, in part, generated by Sweden’s rich communal spirit. They also abide by the spirit of lagom—a word with no English counterpart. The closest definition is that you’re content with what you have, and you enjoy all things in moderation.
9. New Zealand
Kiwis’ happiness may have more to do with attitude than anything else: Unimpressed by status or money, they’re more likely to be found exploring nature than working overtime. Immigrants to New Zealand are accepted as locals even before they gain citizenship.
With a population under 600,000, this small country offers high salaries and a strong social security system to help its citizens after retirement. But before you jump to the conclusion that money is actually buying happiness in Luxembourg, the country has many other perks that have nothing to do with cash, including a great healthcare system and excellent work-life balance