Happiest Countries on Earth

What makes a country happy? The United Nations considers the answer with its annual World Happiness Report, ranking a total of 156 countries. Key ingredients for well-being include longer healthy years of life, more social support, trust in government, higher GDP per capita, and generosity.

This year’s list hosts the same top 10 countries as 2017, however some managed to jump the ranks while others fell. Most notably, Finland jumped from fourth place to first this year, snatching the title from Norway. Finland also has happiest immigrants, a new special focus of this year’s report.

While the experiences of tourists were not considered specifically, the report sets a standard for blissful places to visit. After all, aren’t smiles contagious?

After your done reading about these happy countries, please reply and let us know why your country is one of the happiest places to live. Also, for interactive fun you can click the link (Find out which country is for you). Scroll down my home page, and on the right-hand side you’ll see the link. Have fun!

Here are the happiest countries in the world and some of what makes them unique.

1)  Finland

Finland

How’s Life in Finland?

Finns take their soak time so seriously, there are an estimated two million saunas in the country with a population of 5.3 million. Finland also had the happiest immigrants, a special focus of this year’s report. Happiness or subjective well-being can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries.

Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Finns on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

In general, Finland performs well across the different well-being dimensions relative to other OECD countries. Despite levels of household net adjusted disposable income and household net wealth that fall below the OECD average, Finland benefits from comparatively low levels of both job strain and labour market insecurity. Only around 4% of Finnish employees regularly work very long hours, approximately one-third of the OECD average level, but time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) is close to the average. Finland performs very well in terms of education and skills as well as social support: 95% of Finns report having friends or relatives whom they can count on in times of trouble, compared to the OECD average of 89%. Air and water quality are both areas of comparative strength, and in 2013, life satisfaction in Finland was among the highest in the OECD. However, housing affordability is below the OECD average, and despite having a comparatively high share of people who feel that they have a say in what the government does (47%, compared to 33% for the OECD on average), Finland has a mid-ranking level of voter turnout.

2)  Norway

Norway

How’s Life in Norway?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Norwegians on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5. Norway is a premiere destination to view the dancing lights of the aurora borealis. In ancient times, people believed the glowing lights were sent from the gods.

Relative to other OECD countries, Norway performs very well across the OECD’s different well-being indicators and dimensions. Job strain and long-term unemployment are among the lowest in the OECD, while average earnings and the employment rate are in the top third of the OECD countries. Only around 3% of employees regularly worked long hours in 2016, well below the OECD average of 13%, and full-time employees report having more time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) than the OECD average. In 2015, the average household net adjusted disposable income was among the highest in the OECD, but household net wealth stood below the OECD average. Housing conditions and many dimensions of quality of life are good in Norway. For example, the homicide rate is very low, and almost 88% of Norwegians report that they feel safe walking alone at night, one of the highest shares in the OECD. Meanwhile, 49% of Norwegians feel that they have a say in what the government does, well above the OECD average of 33%.

3)  Denmark

Denmark

How’s Life in Denmark?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Danes on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5. The city of Copenhagen was built for bicyclists. A third of Copenhageners commute to work daily on 217 miles (350 km) of paths and lanes that stretch across the city.

Relative to other OECD countries, Denmark generally performs very well across the different well-being dimensions. Although average household net adjusted disposable income is just below the OECD average, Denmark is among the top tier of OECD countries in terms of both earnings and the employment rate. Denmark also benefits from low levels of both labour market insecurity and job strain, and only 2% of employees regularly work very long hours, one of the lowest percentages in the OECD. Civic engagement and governance is also an area of comparative strength: Denmark has both a high voter turnout and a high share of people who feel they have a say in what the government does. Social support is also very high, with 95% of people reporting that they have friends or relatives whom they can count on in times of trouble, compared to the OECD average of 89%. However, housing affordability is an area of weakness: the average household in Denmark spends 24% of its disposable income on housing costs, well above the OECD average of 21%

4)  Iceland

Iceland

How’s Life in Iceland?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Icelanders on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5. This country is known as “The Land of Fire and Ice” because of the glaciers and volcanoes that make up the landscape. Iceland’s Vatnajökull—Europe’s largest glacier—is a piece of ice the size of Puerto Rico.

In general, Iceland performs well across the different well-being dimensions relative to other OECD countries. 86% of the Icelandic population aged 15-64 was in employment in 2016, the largest share in the OECD, and average earnings are in the top tier of the OECD. Iceland is the OECD’s top performer in terms of environmental quality: air quality (measured as average exposure to PM2.5 air pollution) is the best in the OECD, and almost everybody in Iceland is satisfied with their local water quality. 98% of Icelanders report that they have friends or relatives whom they can count on in times of trouble, the highest share in the OECD. Personal security and life satisfaction are also areas of comparative strength. In terms of housing conditions, access to basic sanitation is high, but Icelanders spend a higher proportion of their disposable income on housing costs (24%) relative to the OECD average (21%), making housing affordability in Iceland a clear area of comparative weakness.

5)  Switzerland

Switzerland

How’s Life in Switzerland?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Swiss people on average gave it a 7.5 grade, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5. According to the International Cocoa Organization, the Swiss eat an estimated 11 kg of chocolate a year.

On average, Switzerland performs well across the OECD’s headline well-being indicators relative to other OECD countries. Average household net adjusted disposable income, earnings and employment are among the highest in the OECD. Life expectancy at birth, at 83 years in 2015, was one of the highest in the OECD, while 80% of Swiss people perceived their health as “good” or “very good”, 11 percentage points above the OECD average. In terms of housing conditions and environmental quality, Switzerland’s performance is mixed. For example, while access to basic sanitation is good, housing affordability was low in 2015, and although 96% of Swiss people are satisfied with their local water quality, air quality (measured as the average concentration of PM2.5 in the air) is worse than the OECD average. Switzerland’s voter turnout for national parliamentary elections stood at only 49% in 2015, the lowest voter turnout in the OECD; this, however, does not take into account Switzerland’s highly participatory form of direct democracy.

6)  Netherlands

Netherlands

How’s Life in the Netherlands?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Dutch people on average gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. Amsterdam actually has 1281 bridges, three times as many as Venice.

In general, the Netherlands performs well across the OECD’s headline well-being indicators relative to the other OECD countries. Household net wealth was about half of the OECD average level in 2015, but average earnings (around 53 000 USD in 2016) are nearly 20% higher than the OECD average. The Netherlands benefits from comparatively low levels of both labour market insecurity and job strain. In addition, less than 1% of employees regularly work very long hours, the lowest share in the OECD. However, the long-term unemployment rate in 2016 stood at 3%, above the OECD average of 2.3%. Housing conditions in the Netherlands are good, but air quality (assessed in terms of exposure to PM2.5 air pollution) is close to the OECD average. 77% of the adult working-age population have completed at least an upper secondary education, compared to the OECD average of 75%, and the literacy and numeracy skills of Dutch adults are among the highest in the OECD. Personal security is also good, and life satisfaction is just above the OECD average level.

7)  Canada

Canada

How’s Life in Canada?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Canadians on average gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. Canada’s forest cover represents 30 percent of the world’s boreal forest and 10 percent of the world’s overall forest cover. Unsurprisingly, Canada’s air quality is among the best in the world.

Canada typically performs above the OECD average level across most of the different well-indicators shown below. It falls within the top tier of OECD countries on household net wealth, the employment rate is high (73% in 2016), the long-term unemployment rate is low (0.8% in 2016) and fewer than 4% of employees usually work 50 hours or more per week, less than a third of the OECD average rate. However, full-time employees on average reported having less time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) than those in most other OECD countries. Housing conditions are generally good, but housing affordability stood below the OECD average in 2016. The average Canadian enjoys relatively good air and water quality, and both feelings of security and life satisfaction are among the highest in the OECD area. A high share of Canadians also report good levels of perceived health, although these data are not directly comparable with those of the other OECD countries, due to a difference in the reporting scale.

8)  New Zealand

New Zealand

How’s Life in New Zealand?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, New Zealanders on average gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. No part of this island nation is more than 128km from the sea. New Zealand is also home to unique penguin species, including the yellow-eyed penguin, the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin, and the little blue penguin—the world’s smallest.

On average, New Zealand performs well across the different well-being indicators and dimensions relative to other OECD countries. It has higher employment and lower long-term unemployment than the OECD average, and benefits from lower-than-average levels of labour market insecurity and job strain. Reported social support is also one of the highest in the OECD. While New Zealand’s environmental quality is high, its performance is mixed in terms of personal security and housing conditions. Although the homicide rate is low, only 65% of people in New Zealand say they feel safe walking alone at night, compared to an OECD average of 69%. While the average number of rooms per person in New Zealand’s homes is among the highest in the OECD, housing affordability is one of the worst. At 82 years, life expectancy at birth is 2 years above the OECD average. A high share of New Zealanders also report good levels of perceived health, although these data are not directly comparable with those of the other OECD countries, due to a difference in the reporting scale.

9)  Sweden

Sweden

How’s Life in Sweden?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Swedes on average gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. In Sweden, the coffee break is sacred. Swedes carve out time each day to slow down and enjoy fika, a short beverage break that can be done solo or with company.

On average, Sweden performs very well across the different well-being dimensions relative to other OECD countries. In 2016, the employment rate was one of the highest in the OECD, and only 1% of employees in Sweden regularly worked very long hours, the second-lowest share in the OECD. However, the household net adjusted disposable income and earnings are just below the OECD average levels. In terms of education and skills, 83% of the adult working-age population have attained at least an upper secondary education, compared to the OECD average of 75%, while both adult skills and students’ cognitive skills also exceed the OECD average. Civic engagement and governance, assessed in terms of voter turnout and the percentage of adults who feel that they have a say in what the government does, are in the top third of the OECD. Sweden’s environmental quality and health status are also good, and life satisfaction was among the highest in the OECD in 2013

10)  Australia

Australia

How’s Life in Australia?

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Australians on average gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5. From the packed shores of Bondi Beach to the quiet hideaways along the Great Ocean Road, Australia has a whopping 10,685 beaches.

In general, Australia performs well across the different well-being dimensions relative to other OECD countries. Air quality is among the best in the OECD, and average household net adjusted disposable income and household net wealth were among the highest in the OECD in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Despite a good performance in jobs and earnings, Australia lies below the OECD average in terms of work-life balance: Australian full-time employees reported having 30 minutes less time off (i.e. time spent on leisure and personal care) than those in other OECD countries, and more than 13% of employees regularly worked 50 hours or more per week in 2016. In terms of personal security, despite the comparatively low homicide rate, only 64% of Australians felt safe walking alone at night, compared to the OECD average of 69% in the period 2014-16. A high share of Australians report good levels of perceived health, although these data are not directly comparable with those of the other OECD countries, due to a difference in the reporting scale.

Remember to tell us why your country is the happiest place on Earth!

5 comments

    1. Social support systems are very important for the general welfare of a society and peoples. I tell many people that it’s about PEOPLE! Our relationships with each other on a micro and macro level. Thank you for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

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