Happiness is not just about money, although it’s part of it. Real gross domestic product per capita is one of the key measurements, says the World Happiness Report 2017 that ranks nations based on ‘happiness’. Others include generosity, a healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices and freedom from corruption, the report’s authors argue. They say it’s a better measure of human welfare than analysing education, good government, health, income and poverty separately.
This year, Norway has been crowned as the world’s happiest country. It’s closely followed by two other Nordic nations, Denmark and Iceland, and then Switzerland in the annual report, which was published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and released at the United Nations recently. The rankings are calculated using data from the Gallup World Poll. Here are the top 10…
Norway: Norway takes the title of the world’s happiest country this year. It climbed three spots from fourth in 2016—though, as the report notes, the top four’s scores are close to one another. Those countries “rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance,” the report says.
Denmark: Last year’s number one fell to second in 2017. Denmark’s success can be attributed to its good life expectancy (80 years, well above the global average of 71), GDP per capita ($44,916, as per World Bank figures, placing it 17th overall), free/tax-financed healthcare, and an enviable welfare system, which has made its wealth gap one of the world’s smallest. But it has also been suggested in the past that Danes are genetically happier than people from other countries.
Iceland: Holding third place for the second year running is Iceland. Offering a relatively low income tax, free healthcare and free higher education to its citizens, the island nation has also been rated to be the most peaceful nation on earth on the Global Peace Index, endorsed by pacifists such as Kofi Annan, the Dalai Lama and archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Switzerland: Number one in 2015, Switzerland has fallen to fourth, but still has good reason to be smug. The average life expectancy is 82.8; they are multilingual, with most citizens understanding German, French and English. They have glorious landscapes encompassing thick forests, wide lakes and railway lines. It’s also the “most competitive country in the world,” as per the World Economic Forum, thanks to its “effective institutions; sound and healthy public finances; an attractive tax regime; excellent infrastructure and connectivity and world-class education system.”
Finland: Europe’s eighth-largest country has also been previously ranked among the countries with the highest quality of life by the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index and among the most peaceful countries in the world by the Global Peace Index. In the report, Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs notes that “the Nordic countries far outpace the US on personal freedom, social support, and lower corruption”.
The Netherlands: The Netherlands is down from the high of fourth place it achieved in the 2013 World Happiness Report, but is still smiling—no doubt helped by its liberal policies, thriving bike culture (because everyone’s happier on a bike) and pretty aesthetics.
Canada: Though it’s down one place from last year, Canada ranked seventh in this year’s World Happiness Report, no doubt helped by its high life expectancy, laidback lifestyle and exquisite scenery. The country combines European style, sensibility and history with the enormous natural wonder of North America.
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New Zealand: New Zealand stayed firm at number eight this year. Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, explained the appeal of the country’s landscapes in his book, Last Chance to See: “One’s first impulse, standing on a clifftop surveying it all, is simply to burst into spontaneous applause.” It also has marine volcanoes, one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys, sperm whales, some marvellous wines and caves lit by glow worms.
Australia: Home to the world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, pristine beaches and consistently warm temperatures, Australia is one of the world’s most popular destinations—and earned the ninth place in this year’s happiness rankings.
Sweden: Sweden ranks fifth among Nordic countries in the happiness report— and 10th in the world. The country has consistently ended up high in these kinds of lists for decades, thanks to relatively strong social support, affluence and comparatively honest and accountable governments.