The World’s Happiest Countries – Do You Agree?

Posted on March 26, 2014 by

Since we’re on the subject of happiness, I’d like to share this interesting list of the happiest countries around the world compiled by the World Happiness Report.

Every year, United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network conducts a 156-nation survey and rank the happiest countries around the globe based on aspects such as healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices and social support. Basically, interviewers sit with people and ask them about their level of happiness, with an emphasis on life satisfaction rather than transient emotional changes.

The results of the 2013 World Happiness Report are quite surprising – with northern European countries like Denmark, Norway and Switzerland leading the pack. Among North American countries, Canada took sixth place, while Mexico came in at 16th slightly outranking the U.S. (17th). Scroll down for the full list.

Rich vs Poor

The report clearly shows that the rich, stable northern countries tend to be happier than those in the relatively poor regions of the world. In an article on the Vancouver Sun, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report explains, “the UN’s Happiness Report doesn’t necessarily indicate that Danes, Swiss or Canadians are the richest or poorest – or that they are cheerful people who put on smiley faces. Instead, the UN rankings confirm the three countries offer decent if unspectacular incomes, a viable social safety net and reasonable community trust.”

True, these people may have decent incomes, freedom from corrupt officials and health resources — but do those things equate to happiness?

We’ve been to all ten of the countries that rank highest in the report, and truth be told, we’d love to live in these countries – with the excellent social welfare, health benefits and work/life balance – and yet, we know so many Scandinavians who just aren’t happy with  life back at home and wish they could live somewhere warmer.

We’ve also met those on the other end of the spectrum: people who live in extreme poverty but seem to not have a care in the world. In the most remote corners of Burma, Bhutan and Madagascar, we found the happiest and friendliest people we’ve ever met. Living in poverty doesn’t necessarily mean a low level of happiness, while being blessed with social stability isn’t equivalent to a high level of happiness.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s impossible to measure happiness. Rather than let a scientific report tell us who’s happy and who’s not, why don’t we go seek true happiness ourselves?

Rather than let a scientific report tell us who’s happy and who’s not, why don’t we go seek true happiness ourselves?


United Nations Top 10 Happiest Countries

1. Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

2. Norway

The Narvik Fjord

3. Switzerland

Zermatt, Switzerland

4. Netherlands

Windmill - KinderdijkFlickr image by coanri

5. Sweden

Small fishing town Lysekil in West Sweden

6. Canada

Banff, CanadaFlickr image by Patrick

7. Finland

Luosto, Finland

8. Austria

Salzburg, Austria

9. Iceland

The Golden Falls, Iceland

10. Australia

Uluru, Australia

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

30 Responses to “The World’s Happiest Countries – Do You Agree?”

  1. As an Australian I have to say I'm pretty happy! Except when I get sunburned. Or bitten by an insect. Or have to pay loads of money to travel anywhere. Bet those things weren't in the report! You're right though, happiness is a state of mind, no matter where you are. It's about your attitude and making the most of what you've got, even if that's insects and strong UV rays! ;-)

    • Nellie March 27, 2014 7:30 am #

      It\’s great to hear the perspective of an Aussie! Nothing is perfect in this world, and there are always advantages and disadvantages of living in a country. But like you said, it\’s all about our attitudes in life. ;)

  2. Jen March 27, 2014 2:02 am #

    Stoked Australia made it on the list. I can say from a life of experience that it is a pretty happy place to live. Having travelled to a few of the others I think I would be pretty happy living in some of them too. I would add Japan to that list. I know I felt pretty darn happy being there and the people looked happy and were so friendly.

    • Nellie March 27, 2014 7:27 am #

      Hey Jen, so I\’m guessing you\’re from Australia? I think if I had to choose from this list, Australia would be my number one choice to live in. Japan is quite a cool place too, but I think Tokyo\’s probably too stressful for me.

  3. andiperullo March 27, 2014 8:17 am #

    Hmmm not sure I agree with this at all…

  4. LifePart2 March 28, 2014 3:17 am #

    One country that at least deserves "Honorable Mention" is Bhutan. Instead of forever growing GNP they follow an official policy of GNH (gross national happiness). It is both uplifting and a beautiful place to visit.

    • Nellie March 28, 2014 10:34 am #

      Yes I was just going to write about that! I visited Bhutan a few months ago and I was definitely blown away by the interesting government policies they have. It\’s definitely uplifting to see a country with such a refreshing approach to life.

  5. Jodie March 29, 2014 9:18 pm #

    Surprised to see so many cold places on the list! Costa Rica (in my opinion) deserves a spot. Great weather, safe, friendly people. Love it!

  6. Nita April 5, 2014 4:08 pm #

    Agree with what you said. Don't think there's a scale to measure who the happiest is. You could be living in a so called happy country but be miserable if your personal life circumstances are awful or if you have a bad attitude. I think it's our state of mind, which is partly affected by quality of life. Now whether a simple life or a lavish lifestyle makes you happy is another factor. Hmmm.. Interesting nonetheless, and beautiful pictures! Beautiful pictures make me happy! :)

  7. TRAVELTHERENEXT April 6, 2014 7:00 am #

    I'd put Vanuatu on the list.

  8. Kristy April 7, 2014 11:52 pm #

    Too bad our country is not on the list but it's okay because happiness is something that can be spread through continents and nations.

  9. Hamish Healys April 9, 2014 12:52 am #

    DENMARK, NORWAY, SWITZERLAND, CANADA, etc. … My own feeling says they’re the safest, crime-least countries in the world. Happiest ? There’s Brazil, France, Thailand, The U.S. and perhaps, Mexico.

  10. Razia Sheikh May 8, 2014 4:46 am #

    if it is true, then who don't like to stay like stay here. especially Denmark and Sweden, both are most amazing countries.

  11. Echo Santos May 12, 2014 4:19 am #

    Interesting. From what I understand, this index is based on the social, political, and economic factors that add to a high quality of life. Unlike Bhutan's GNH index, this doesn't include the spiritual aspects, life connection with other people, etc. that are also crucial factors on living a fulfilled life.

  12. Peter Thomas May 29, 2014 11:34 pm #

    I totally agree that Sweden is one of the happiest countries, I just came from a recent trip there and it was amazing!

  13. tinaryan23 June 18, 2014 1:20 am #

    I totally agree, those countries are also the top riches in the world. So definitely people there are happy. Can you find happiness in third world country? Yes.. Visit the Philippines…

  14. Richard June 19, 2014 8:45 am #

    Great list, traveled to most of these with the exception to Australia. It's huge on my list. If I could add the Canary Islands. Everyone there is always so happy, tourism and banana's are always in abundance :)

    • Living Valencia July 3, 2014 7:24 am #

      Richard, I agree with you, people from Canary Islans are amazing and happy…and people from Andalusia too. About Australia, for me should be on the top, Melbourne is very cool.

  15. Adventurous Miriam June 24, 2014 9:44 am #

    As a Dane, I agree! Denmark is indeed a happy country. I read an article somewhere that it has to do with Danes having lower and more realistic expectations in general, but it feels more like it's about our size – we're a small country so we stand together and take care of each other, e.g. by having a great wellfare system, exercising freedom of speech and we get paid to study. At least that's part of why I'm a happy Dane :)

  16. sofiecouwenbergh July 10, 2014 3:28 am #

    Isn't this remarkable that all of these countries are places where it's regularly really cold? I would've thought warmer countries would have happier people.
    Maybe living somewhere colder makes you put more energy into your social system, work, politics…

  17. Cest La Vibe March 18, 2016 10:07 pm #

    Great post, but you don’t need to go to one of the world’s happiest countries to be happy! Be happy wherever you are!

  18. Chris April 4, 2016 12:48 pm #

    Very interesting! Did the UN use a happy-o-meter? :)
    It’s interesting because Scandinavian countries have a relative high suicide rate.

  19. Nika Jane July 5, 2016 1:29 am #

    I don’t think if they’re the happiest countries all over the world. But I agree they’re happy countries. Wherever we go, we are happy because we chose to be happy.

  20. Emerson S. February 2, 2017 2:50 pm #

    I think Italy should be on the list. Aside from good food, the views and activities specially in Puglia is simply amazing and it’s a perfect place to enjoy for all ages.

  21. Aria of Puglia February 4, 2017 1:47 pm #

    Glad to see Italy listed in here. :)

  22. gervase February 13, 2017 3:08 pm #

    i have noticed most of the countries are in the cold north….maybe it is the beauty of these countries that make the people happy….i definately agree with denmark as they all seem to be extremely happy…

  23. Sagar Nepal April 12, 2017 9:48 am #

    I 100% agree about the list of happiest countries in the world. it is really informative, i found same report on another news portal too.

  24. Agness of Fit Travelling July 28, 2017 6:51 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more with you! I was in Netherlands 2 days ago and they all seem very happy! Where would you live from these list of countries?

    • Nellie Huang July 31, 2017 3:48 am #

      I would definitely live in Norway, Australia or Iceland! I love Scandinavian countries largely for the outdoorsy lifestyle they have there, the fresh air and mountains, and great welfare. Australia is really cool for its diversity and rugged nature. What about you?

  25. Justin July 30, 2017 7:15 pm #

    I suspect the people who came up with the criteria helped make their countries the happiest. My company is owned by the Danish, they don’t always seem very happy.

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