There’s a lot to unpack as we enter the end of summer 2022. There’s a pandemic that won’t quite die, the threat of more frequent catastrophic weather events from climate change, and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. And yet, even as the world undergoes disastrous and devastating problems, people are finding ways to not only make it but be happy. The World Happiness Report, a publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network that uses Gallup World Poll data, recently put out its 10th-anniversary edition of the happiest countries in the world. The latest found that global benevolence has had a solid increase, even as unforeseen problems pop up.
For the past 10 years, the World Happiness report has used annual survey data with responses from thousands of people in 150 countries. This year’s report uses survey data from the Gallup World Poll from 2019 to 2021. The Gallup World Poll measures levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption. It then compares them to the benchmark country — a hypothetical dystopia that has the world’s lowest levels in these categories.
The happiest countries in the world tend to be Nordic, with Finland ranking the happiest country for the fifth year in a row. Denmark and Sweden took second and third place. These countries score high in all six categories, receiving overall scores of 7.3 or higher out of eight. Norway came in at number eight, and it’s safe to say the concept of friluftsliv might have something to do with that. The Netherlands, with its refreshing uitwaaien lifestlye, made it to number five. The United States ranks 16th with a score of 6.977.
War-torn regions saw the lowest scores, with Afghanistan ranked 150th. And while Israel ranks ninth, the Palestinian territories come in at 122nd. Russia ranked 80th in this year’s report and Ukraine ranked 98th, though these numbers are obviously expected to change in the next report.
These are the 20 Happiest Countries in the World in 2022
1. Finland (7.821)
Finland was ranked the happiest country in the world in 2022. Scandanavians have always seemed to possess the secret to being happy, and Finland is no exception. Finnish people are credited with having built a strong community feel, and trust among one another that lends itself to a happy lifestyle. Though Finland handled the COVID-19 pandemic decisively and effectively, the Finnish people did not believe the government was an overbearing presence in their lives, and felt free and empowered to make their own decisions — key indicators of a community’s collective happiness.
2. Denmark (7.636)
The second happiest country in the world, Denmark scored highly in many of the categories that hint at overall happiness and exceptional quality of life. These include GDP per capita, generosity, and perceived lack of corruption. Reliable and wide-ranging welfare benefits, as well as a small population, are also believed to contribute to the country’s happiness.
3. Iceland (7.557)
In addition to having some of the best education, lowest crime rates, and sense of community in the world, Iceland also ranks highly for its feeling of social support and generosity. It’s hard to overstate, though, the importance of having so much diverse, natural beauty right on your doorstep. It’s tough to be unhappy when you’re surrounded by waterfalls, hot springs, fjords, and of course, Icelandic horses.
4. Switzerland (7.512)
One of the healthiest countries in the world, Switzerland has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world and longest life expectancies. Money might not be everything, but it’s not unimportant either, and Switzerland has an extremely high median salary — about 75 percent higher than the US — as well as one of the highest GDPs per capita. Add to this the Swiss’ strong sense of community, and of course, that crisp mountain air, and it’s no surprise that Switzerland cracked the top five.
5. Netherlands (7.415)
Maybe it’s all the legal marijuana, but the Netherlands consistently ranks among the happiest countries in the world. One of the highest scorers in the generosity category, the Netherlands also ranked highly in the ethics category, as most residents perceive the government to be operating without corruption. This level of trust in both fellow citizens and the government is a recipe for an excellent quality of life.
6. Luxembourg (7.404)
Luxembourg might be a small country, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in positive spirit. Luxembourg ranks highly in GDP per capita, a feeling of personal freedom among residents, life expectancy, social support, and generosity. And since you can pretty much cross the entire country in a two-hour drive, there are no long commutes to sour citizens’ moods.
7. Sweden (7.384)
Ranking highly in pretty much every category, Sweden is the perfect example of that classic Scandinavian high quality of life. With a low corruption score, one of the highest GDPs per capita, high life expectancy, government programs designed specifically to boost the quality of life, and long summer days spent in bucolic country houses, the living’s good in Sweden.
8. Norway (7.365)
Universal healthcare, free college tuition, and a healthy work-life balance make all the difference in Norway. Norway also has a low crime rate and a strong sense of community — key ingredients for a happy lifestyle. Add to this the country’s stunning natural beauty, with an abundance of mountains, fjords, and forests, and it’s easy to see why Norway is one of the happiest countries in the world.
9. Israel (7.364)
The first non-European or Scandinavian country on the list, Israel is representing the Middle East in the top 10. Israelis have a long life expectancy, place immense value on community spirit and cooperation, and enjoy eight months of blue, mostly clear skies.
10. New Zealand (7.200)
Being geographically separated from the woes of the rest of the world certainly contributes to New Zealand’s overall happiness — but there’s more to it than that. New Zealanders enjoy a laid-back way of life, a healthy work-life balance, political stability, and an extremely low level of crime. There’s also the fact that New Zealanders literally live in Middle Earth.
11. Austria (7.163)
There’s more to making Austrians happy than just alpine skiing and the beautiful palaces of Vienna. While often overshadowed by neighboring Germany, Austria can boast of having happier citizens, thanks to its high GDP per capita, emphasis on family time together, and a culture of outdoor exploration. When you’re feeling low, there’s nothing like some classic fresh air.
12. Australia (7.162)
Though formerly known as an island for the British Empire’s criminal castoffs, Australia is now widely considered one of the most breathtaking countries in the world, and a must-visit destination for travelers. Its strong tourism appeal has contributed to Australia’s booming economy, but its stable government, healthy lifestyle, and recent expert handling of COVID-19, have really cemented its place as one of the world’s happiest countries.
13. Ireland (7.041)
It’s not just the luck of the Irish. There are some real, tangible things that make Ireland so happy. Access to efficient and useful public services is one. Another is a general clean, safe environment, as well as a lack of corruption and a good work-life balance. And of course, Guinness doesn’t hurt either.
14. Germany (7.034)
Germany is famous for its beer, soft pretzels, ornate cathedrals, and alpine landscapes, but it’s the financial security of its citizens, and the government’s pandemic response, that really catapulted the country to the top of the list. Generally, stable family lives and a healthy lifestyle also contributed to the overall quality of life.
15. Canada (7.025)
Canada probably doesn’t really care where it lands on this list, as long as it beats the US – which it does, by one spot. Canada’s comprehensive and free health care system, healthy lifestyle, and abundance of opportunities for outdoor adventure play a major role in the country’s ranking.
16. United States (6.977)
The US might not seem like one of the happiest countries in the world if you watch the news, but then again, the news doesn’t exactly run on feel-good reporting. The 16th-place ranking is a step up from last year when the US ranked 19th. The reason for this, perhaps surprisingly, is an increase in acts of kindness during and post-pandemic, including volunteering, making donations, and helping strangers. As a massive country, however, levels of happiness differ dramatically by state.
17. United Kingdom (6.943)
There’s nothing quite like getting out of work and strolling down a centuries-old street to a centuries-old neighborhood pub where everyone knows your name. It sounds like a 90s sitcom trope, but in the UK, it’s actually real, and one of the reasons it’s among the happiest places in the world. In addition to grabbing a pint at the local watering hole, universal health care, high environmental quality, and social engagement, also contributed to its high ranking. Unsurprisingly, the weather isn’t on that list.
18. Czech Republic (6.920)
One of the happiest countries in Central Europe, the Czech Republic is known for its safety, beer, and stunning Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Czechs are highly educated — a factor that often equates to greater overall happiness — and the country also has an advanced economy and high standard of living.
19. Belgium (6.805)
Chocolate and waffles. That’s really all you need to know about Belgium to realize why it’s one of the happiest countries in the world. But since you can’t eat chocolate and waffles all day, it also ranks consistently high in freedom of identity, freedom of expression, security, and healthcare. Anyone who’s seen In Bruges might be inclined to believe that Belgium is boring, but in fact, it has a great beer culture, a richly diverse culture to explore, and hosts several of Europe’s most rocking music festivals.
20. France (6.687)
Americans might view the French as snooty and unwelcoming, but that’s only if you’re trying to order off a menu in a Michelin-starred restaurant in a loud southern accent. In general, the French are an immensely happy people, with a good work-life balance, healthy lifestyles, high civic engagement, and a more relaxed pace of life than places like the US. And most important of all, there are baguettes.