What Are the World’s Happiest Countries?
The World Happiness Report annually researches various factors of different countries, including the healthy life expectancy, social support provided by the government, GDP per capita, social capital and, of course, subjective well-being. The report says that the happiest countries are those that build the strongest social ties, have better-managed “commons” and a strong sense of community.
First place: Finland, where citizens report strong feelings of communal support and mutual trust. Finlanders felt strongly that they were free to make their own choices and showed minimal suspicion of government corruption.
Second: Denmark, which was the happiest country in 2020, and actually outscored Finland in GDP per capita, generosity, and perceived lack of corruption.
In third place: Switzerland, where 96% of those surveyed believe they know someone they could rely on in time of need. The country also ranked high in subjective well-being, jobs and earnings, income and wealth, health status, social connections, environmental quality, education and skills, and personal security. The Swiss have a median salary about 75% higher than that of the US and the highest GDP per capita of the top seven finishers.
Fourth: Iceland, which led all countries in jobs and earnings, and ranked high in most other categories—especially general satisfaction in life, at 7.5 on a scale of 1-10, compared with an average of 6.6 for all developed countries. Icelanders reported the highest feeling of social support and the second-highest generosity score.
The Netherlands came in fifth, which scored high in generosity and perceived lack of corruption.
It was followed by Norway, whose citizens enjoy universal healthcare and free college tuition, and work just 38 hours a week on average. Sweden (top ranking in environmental quality), Luxembourg, New Zealand, Austria, Australia (top in civic engagement and above-average in environmental quality), Israel, Germany, and Canada (89% reported being in good health, compared with 69% for all developed nations, as well as being top in civic engagement and above-average in environmental quality) were among the leaders.
The United States was ranked 19th on the list, behind, in order, Ireland, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic and just ahead of Belgium, France, Bahrain, Malta and Taiwan.
Though it’s only one of several factors considered by the report, the importance of social connections and sense of community shouldn’t be surprising. In her 2017 Ted Talk, social researcher Susan Pinker presented the findings of her study of places in the world where larger percentages of the population live to age 100 or more. Pinker says that close personal relationships and even more casual social connections are the most important predictors of longer, healthier lifespans. It’s nice to know that even if you don’t live in Finland or one of the other countries at the top of the list, you can still cultivate the type of community connections that can help you lead a long, happy life.
At Bernhardt Wealth Management, our principal goal is to help our clients manage their wealth and investments in a way that helps them meet their most important goals. To learn more, click here to read our article, “What Is Wealth Planning, Really?”