The past year has been life-changing for everyone in the world, from the smallest details of the way we live day-to-day to how the world operates on a global scale. In these unprecedented times, it’s hard to determine the happiest countries to live in the world. Measuring happiness of a country seems a nebulous concept to try to quantify, being something that is largely subjective from person to person. Fortunately, the United Nations has released the World Happiness Report, which is based on several factors, including culture, climate, economic work-life balance, and GDP per capita. The report also paid special attention to evaluate how different governments have dealt with the pandemic and how trust in said governments is directly related to overall happiness of the nation.
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So here are top 10 happiest countries to live in the world.
Austria with low unemployment and inequality rates and high income per capita and life expectancy, this small heaven of just 8.9 million people is an ideal place to live. Although slipping one spot from the previous edition of the ranking, the general level of life satisfaction expressed by the Austrian population remained almost unchanged. Quality of life in Austria has been regarded as one of the highest in the world, with low crime rates, high levels of social welfare, a thriving economy, and a wide range of cultural and historical offerings. Austrians’ excellent quality of life goes hand in hand with their strong sense of community and civic duty, and these qualities proved more precious than ever during the pandemic. It’s also a must-visit for expats and is considered one of the best places to move if you’re looking for a sea change.
9: New Zealand
The only Non-European country to make the top 10, New Zealand rates consistently high for its quality of life and getting the work-life balance right. With a sprawling coastline of beautiful beaches, jaw-dropping mountain peaks, and adventurous activities, it’s no wonder that New Zealand is one of the top 10 happiest countries to live. Moreover, Kiwis take their happiness seriously and are quick to spring into action when something threatens it. They enacted stringent measures to control the spread of the virus very early on, and they stuck to them. Plus, every citizen is entitled to government-subsidized healthcare, regardless of their residency status. Even non-residents with a temporary visa have access to the country’s excellent medical care.
Norway last claimed the top spot on the rankings in 2017 and has been sliding further down the table ever since. Still, Norwegians have little to complain about in terms of their life evaluations, with one of the best social security systems in the world and a thriving economy, which is based on the responsible management of its natural resources. It means collectively, many in the country feel secure and happy. And of course, living in a country where spending time outdoors is venerated, Norway’s outstanding natural beauty surely helps too. A drive through Norway is a constant surprise with rugged landscapes and sophisticated cities. Furthermore, Norway has mostly been successful in keeping COVID mortality rates low and mitigating the economic impact of lockdowns.
Germany hasn’t previously made the top 10, but it seems satisfaction with life has improved for Germans despite the pandemic. Life evaluations have been on the increase in the last two surveys, with greater financial security and family stability being key reasons. And until recently, at least, Germans have generally been happy with how the country’s leaders have dealt with the pandemic. It boasts one of the best standards of living in the world. Cities like Munich and Frankfurt rank in the top 10 cities with the best quality of life. Moreover, the country has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe and is the fourth largest economy in the world.
Sweden combines incredible natural sites like glaciers and deep blue archipelagos with a cosmopolitan capital in Stockholm, providing the best of both worlds on the report’s happiness index. Considering the report also greatly considered the role that trust in your government plays in happiness and the importance of work-life balance, it’s not surprising to see Sweden so high on the list. Outside of the virus outbreak, Sweden is considered to have one of the best welfare systems in the world, with Swedes receiving benefits such as subsidized prenatal care, 480 days of paid leave when a child is born or adopted, and plenty of other healthcare and workplace benefits. While it is lower in the rankings in this year’s survey than in previous years, the country is still one of the best places in the world to live, work, and raise a family.
Canal-lined cities, fields of tulips, and windmills are just some of the things that spring to mind when picturing the Netherlands. Famed for its cultural capital, Amsterdam, this nation is a huge draw for lovers of art and history. But don’t sleep on the green valleys or stunning national parks. With so much to explore in the Netherlands, it’s an obvious candidate for the top 10 happiest countries to live and explore in the world. Furthermore, the country is also ranked as one of the best countries to raise a family. Children living in the Netherlands are amongst the happiest in the world due to its healthy public education system and quality international schools which help create a secure environment for families and their children.
A high life expectancy, excellent economic growth, the best healthcare in the world, and a public transport system that runs to the second. It’s no wonder that Switzerland is one of the happiest countries in the world. Switzerland’s system of government is perhaps an anomaly in much of Europe, let alone the world, with regular referenda on key issues. The Swiss are some of the most politically astute Europeans and highly engaged in terms of democratic participation. Having such a big say on how your country is run seems to directly correlate to your happiness levels, and living in those fairy tale landscapes couldn’t hurt either. Moreover, in Switzerland, everything is voted on, from how many vacation days workers should have to how many immigrants should be allowed into the country.
Denmark won the top spot in 2012, 2013, and 2016, but despite not taking the number one spot this year, they’re still clearly maintaining the happiness of their people. The Danish are known for their laid-back attitude to life, while their capital city, Copenhagen, is routinely listed as one of the most livable cities in the world. As a bike-friendly country, respect for the surroundings has played a large part in Danes’ general happiness, as have well-paying jobs, good work-life balance, and an excellent social security system. Even if the country is slowly slipping down the rankings, Denmark also prides itself on having one of the smallest wealth gaps in the world, a society where people share both the burdens and the benefits equally.
Iceland routinely tops a wide variety of quality of life rankings, chosen by both the World Economic Forum as the best country in the world for gender equality and the Institute for Economics and Peace as the most peaceful for more than 10 years in a row. This republic of just a little over 360,000 is also a shining example of how to handle a pandemic. While health officials rushed to contain the spread of the coronavirus earlier than most countries, through aggressive testing and contact tracing, the government guaranteed the payment of the full salary to those suspected of being infected. In other words, Icelanders did not have to worry about losing their wages and stayed at home when they needed to. Iceland thus maintains, for the third year in a row, the fourth position in the happiness ranking. And with its enchanting landscapes, free healthcare and education, and extraordinary collective sense of trust and community, it is no surprise that once again it came so close to the top of the UN index.
Crowned the happiest country in the world for the fourth year running, Finland looks like it has cracked the secret to being happy. The fact that it is a high-income country whose education system is the envy of the world may have something to do with it, as does its outdoor pursuits. This year, above all else, confidence in the government seems to have played a large part. It’s noted that Finland ranked very high on the measures of mutual trust that have helped to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic. Furthermore, with more forest per square mile than any other European nation, many Finns also credit their connection with nature and the outdoors for their satisfaction with life.