What is the Happiest Country in the World?

On March 20th, the International Day of Happiness is observed. The United Nations’ 193 member states observed the first International Day of Happiness in 2013.

The World Happiness Report is an annual publication that measures and ranks countries based on their levels of happiness and well-being. It is a comprehensive study conducted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network[1] and draws on data from various sources, including Gallup World Poll[2] surveys, national statistics, and academic research.

The report aims to provide policymakers and governments with valuable insights into the factors that contribute to happiness and well-being in different countries. It emphasizes the importance of considering happiness and well-being as key indicators of societal progress alongside economic indicators.

The World Happiness Report utilizes a variety of factors to assess happiness levels

  • GDP per capita: The economic output per person within a country.
  • Social support: The presence of a strong social network and supportive relationships.
  • Healthy life expectancy: The average number of years of healthy life expectancy within a country.
  • Freedom to make life choices: The degree of personal freedom and autonomy individuals have to make life decisions.
  • Generosity: Measuring the inclination of individuals to give and help others.
  • Perceptions of corruption: The level of corruption perceived within a country.

The report also explores the relationship between happiness and other important aspects of life, such as education, income inequality, mental health, and social connections. The World Happiness Report is widely recognized and respected as a significant resource for understanding global happiness levels.

It has gained considerable attention from policymakers, academics, and the general public. The report’s findings help inform policy decisions and initiatives aimed at improving the overall well-being of individuals and societies.

There’s cause for optimism in the latest report on world happiness. For one, benevolence is about 25% higher than it was pre-pandemic. And global happiness has not taken a hit in the three years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Life evaluations from 2020 to 2022 have been “remarkably resilient,” the report says, with global averages basically in line with the three years preceding the pandemic.

Benevolence to others, especially the helping of strangers, which went up dramatically in 2021, stayed high in 2022.

John Helliwell, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report

For 2023, Finland is the No. 1 happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row. Just as in 2022, Denmark came in at No. 2 and was followed by Iceland at No. 3. These countries and their neighbors Sweden and Norway all score very well on the measures the report uses to explain its findings.

Is it, are they doing things that we wish we’d seen before and we can start doing? Or is it something unique about their climate and history that make them different? And fortunately, at least from my perspective, the answer is the former.

John Helliwell, Professor Emeritus at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia

Israel moves up to No. 4 this year from its No. 9 ranking last year. The Netherlands (No. 5), Switzerland (No. 8), Luxembourg (No. 9), and New Zealand (No. 10) round out the top 10. Australia (No. 12), Canada (No. 13), Ireland (No. 14), the United States (No. 15), and the United Kingdom (No. 19) all made it into the top 20.

While the same countries tend to appear in the top 20 year after year, there’s a new entrant this year: Lithuania. The Baltic nation has been climbing steadily over the past six years from No. 52 in 2017 to No. 20 on the latest list. And the other Baltic countries, Estonia (No. 31) and Latvia (No. 41), have been climbing in the ranks, too. France dropped out of the top 20 to No. 21 in this year’s report.

At the very bottom of the list is Afghanistan at No. 137. Lebanon is one rank above at No. 136. Average life evaluations in these countries are more than five points lower (on a scale from 0 to 10) than in the 10 happiest countries.

Well-being in Ukraine has definitely taken a hit, but “despite the magnitude of suffering and damage in Ukraine, life evaluations in September 2022 remained higher than in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation, supported now by a stronger sense of common purpose, benevolence, and trust in Ukrainian leadership,” the report says.

It isn’t really about the grades or the salary, it’s about cooperating with other people in a useful way. And of course, that’s useful for the world, but the whole point of this happiness research is that it’s also good for the people doing it. In other words, you do end up feeling better about yourself if you’re actually looking after other people rather than number one.

John Helliwell

Confidence in their governments grew in both countries in 2022, the survey says, “but much more in Ukraine than in Russia.” And Ukrainian support for the leadership in Russia fell to zero. In this year’s rankings, Russia is No. 70 and Ukraine is No. 92.

2023 Rankings

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Israel
  5. Netherlands
  6. Sweden
  7. Norway
  8. Switzerland
  9. Luxembourg
  10. New Zealand
  11. Austria
  12. Australia
  13. Canada
  14. Ireland
  15. United States
  16. Germany
  17. Belgium
  18. Czech Republic
  19. United Kingdom
  20. Lithuania

  1. The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is a global initiative launched by the United Nations in 2012. The SDSN aims to mobilize expertise and knowledge from academia, civil society, and the private sector to promote sustainable development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It serves as a platform for collaboration and provides practical solutions and policy recommendations to address global challenges related to poverty, inequality, climate change, and other pressing issues. The SDSN conducts research, publishes reports, organizes events, and facilitates partnerships to promote sustainable development worldwide. [Back]
  2. The Gallup World Poll is a widely recognized and comprehensive global public opinion survey conducted by Gallup, a renowned research and analytics firm. It gathers data from individuals in over 160 countries, providing valuable insights into various aspects of well-being, economics, governance, and social issues. The survey aims to capture the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of people worldwide, making it a significant resource for understanding global trends and perspectives. [Back]

Further Reading


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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