The study bases its rankings on data from the Gallup World Poll and takes into account variables such as real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, corruption levels and social freedoms.

Author: Gilly Wright
Project Coordinator: S.J. Yun

Published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. Originating out of a project from Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom of 700,000 people in the eastern Himalayas whose prime minister, Jigmi Y. Thinley, set out to measure Gross National Happiness. Thinley got the United Nations to adopt a 2011 resolution inviting member nations to measure their happiness as a guide to improving public policies.

"Increasingly happiness is considered a proper measure of social progress and goal of public policy," the report says. Adding: "A rapidly increasing number of national and local governments are using happiness data and research in their search for policies that could enable people to live better lives".

According to the SDSN the challenge is to ensure that policies are designed and delivered in ways that enrich the social fabric, and teach the pleasure and power of empathy to current and future generations. “Under the pressures of putting right what is obviously wrong, there is often too little attention paid to building the vital social fabric. Paying greater attention to the levels and sources of subjective wellbeing has helped us to reach these conclusions, and to recommend making and keeping happiness as a central focus for research and practice.”

The report states that at both individual and national levels, all measures of wellbeing, including emotions and life evaluations, are strongly influenced by the quality of the surrounding social norms and institutions. “When these social factors are well-rooted and readily available, communities and nations are more resilient, and even natural disasters can add strength to the community as it comes together in response.”

10. Australia

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A high quality of life and famed laid-back attitude help to make Australians happy. Abundant sunshine and beaches bring happiness but health care, low crime rates, a clean environment, education, civic engagement, and a longer-than-average life expectancy also make Australians happy. A strong economy helped to keep Australian’s happy as much of the world suffered economic downturn and Australian’s despite their laid-back reputation are happy to work hard to enjoy a better lifestyle.

9. New Zealand

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New Zealand is blessed with spectacular scenery and vast open spaces, so is great for those that enjoy the great outdoors, which helps New Zealanders enjoy a high life expectancy and high levels of experienced well-being. They enjoy an enviable work-life balance and a relaxed pace of life which also leads to a less stressed way of living.

8. Sweden

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The combination of high interpersonal trust and an individualistic social culture attribute to Sweden’s happiness. A strong social welfare system, shared values, gender equality and a relatively classless society all play their part too. Swedes are generally self-deprecating and family orientated - parents get a total of 480 parental days for each child and they enjoy healthy outdoor living.

7. The Netherlands

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The Dutch are the happiest workers in the world and enjoy the shortest working week of any industrialized nation (an average of 29 hours). Part time work and the support of a stay at home parent also help foster happy family life. The Dutch enjoy a high quality of life and a traditionally open culture. Cooperation and consultation are key Dutch attributes, which help to make an inclusive society.


6. Finland

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Finns enjoy a high quality of life, low levels of corruption, high literacy rates, a small income gap, wide access to health care, high life expectancy rates and a healthy work-life balance. Finland enjoys one of the best education systems in the world where personal choice and flexibility are favoured. Known as the land of 1,000 lakes, which are perfect for a post sauna dip and over 70% of Finland is also covered in forests, which are enjoyed by all as Finland thanks to a right to roam policy. Finns are famed for their dry sense of humour, which must help during the depths of winter.

5. Canada

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Canada ranks high in all factors - healthy life expectancy, social support, generosity, gender equality, age equality, and freedom to make life choices. According to a report from the Legatum Institute Canada is also the freest country in the world. Canadian’s enjoy a high standard of living - more than 70% own their own home and automobiles. Education is affordable and health care is mostly free at the point of use. A large country with nature all around - making camping, hiking, fishing etc part of normal life.

4. Norway

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Norway ranks above the average in most quality of life dimensions, such as well-being, jobs and earnings, housing, work-life balance, environmental quality, civic engagement, social connections, health status, and personal security in countless studies. Being oil-rich means that Norwegian’s enjoy unusually high social benefits and early retirement age. Norwegians enjoy a good work life balance - average workweek is only 34 hours. Norway has clean air, low pollution and close proximity of nature, including fjords, mountains, islands, seashore, lakes, northern lights and midnight sun. Just remember to wrap up well.

3. Denmark

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Denmark also ranks among places with greater gender equality. Danish families receive a total of 52 weeks of parental leave - mothers are able to take 18 weeks and fathers receive two weeks at up to 100% salary. The rest of the paid time off is up to the family to use as they see fit. While taxes are high in Denmark, it pays for free health care services and education for citizens. Leisure time is important to Danes and they spend much of it ‘hygge’ a Danish word for cosy social gatherings, intimate get-togethers with family and friends. The Danish love of cycling also helps keep fit, happy and healthy.

2. Iceland

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With its glaciers, hot springs, waterfalls, lava flows and the northern lights it’s understandable why Icelanders are such a happy bunch, surrounded as they are by such breathtaking and inspiring scenery. With just 300,000 inhabitants Iceland enjoys a really low crime rate - with 1 to 2 per 100,000 ratios. Icelanders also enjoy high employment and a world-class education system - with a literacy rate of 100%. In Iceland, 71% of adult women and 77% of men work, according to World Bank data for 2013 - so gender equality can also form part of Iceland’s well-being and happiness.


1. Switzerland

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Switzerland tops the rankings and the Swiss rate their lives highly because of the overall human development in Switzerland, long life expectancy and high incomes, which are all big drivers of life evaluation. While the report does not equate happiness with prosperity there is no getting away from the fact that Switzerland is a rich nation, with an average GDP per capita of $58,000. Switzerland is also the closest nation to a direct democracy where citizens if the garner 50,000 signatures within 100 days of the publication of a new law can propose almost any constitutional amendment they wish. Switzerland is an incredibly scenic country with beautiful lakes and mountains fro all to enjoy. Add world-beating chocolate to the list and it is no surprise that the Swiss are so pleased with themselves.


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