The Happiest Countries Are All in This Part of the World

What does it take to make us all truly happy? Whatever it is, northern Europe has figured it out. The latest World Happiness Report is out today and it ranks six northern European countries in the top 10. The report, put out for the UN by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and it ranks countries across six metrics: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.

According to the survey data gathered by the SDSN the 10 happiest countries in the world are:

1. Finland

2. Denmark

3. Norway

4. Iceland

5. The Netherlands

6. Switzerland

7. Sweden

8. New Zealand

9. Canada

10. Austria

The happiness in all 10 of those countries seems to be driven primarily by a combination of a high per capita GDP and strong social support. In fact, one of the editors of the report, John Helliwell made the point that happiness really is driven by those sorts of external factors and not by, say, some special internal happiness that resides inside those of Finnish or Danish descent. He told CNN, “it’s true that last year all Finns were happier than the rest of the country’s residents, but their immigrants were also the happiest immigrans in the world. It’s not about Finnish DNA. It’s the way life is lived in those countries.”    

As for the United States, it sits down at number 19, sandwiched between Belgium and the Czech Republic. More troubling though, the level of happiness in the country has decreased massively since 2008. Over the last decade, survey data show happiness dropping in the US by about the same amount as it has dropped in Afghanistan.

The United States isn’t the only major country that landed further down the list. Germany barely nipped the US coming in at number 17, Japan, which boasts the second largest economy in the world among the world’s democracies is way down at number 58 and China is even further back at 93.

You can check out the whole report, which goes deep into the causes of our collective happiness and unhappiness at In the meantime, flights to Helsinki are pretty reasonable right now.