Happiness isn’t an easy thing to put a number to, but every year the United Nations tries to quantify it. They release the annual World Happiness Report that ranks every country’s happiness through surveys and data. The report looks at things like equality, work-life balance, a strong sense of community, and respect for other citizens. The top 20 have been revealed and they seem to have a winning formula.
#35 — El Salvador
El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. The country’s economy is primarily agriculture-based, but has expanded its manufacturing sector in recent years which has contributed to a rapid increase in industrialization.
While El Salvador does have high rates of poverty, inequality, and crime, citizens of the country note that social support and a healthy lifestyle contribute to their overall happiness. The country has a tropical climate, beautiful beaches, over 300 rivers and incredible views of mountains and volcanoes, which attracts over one million tourists each year.
#34 — Singapore
Residents of Singapore point to a healthy economy and social support as the two main factors of their overall happiness. The island city-state consists of one main island and 62 islets, which makes its development and advanced technology all the more impressive.
5.6 million residents call Singapore home, 39% of which are originally from another country. The country’s cultural diversity has resulted in an incredible selection of cuisine and festivals, which contributes to Singaporeans’ overall happiness, enjoying time socializing with friends and family.
#33 — Uruguay
The country of Uruguay is ranked number one in Latin America in terms of democracy, peace, and low perception of corruption. Uruguay is also ranked first in South America for press freedom, prosperity, and a strong middle class. It’s also high-ranking when it comes to the economy and income equality.
Residents have a lot to be happy about in this socially-advanced country that ranks high on the global scale. They have similar taste in foods as Americans, including a chivito, or a steak sandwich, and pancho, which is a Uruguayan hot dog. They enjoy french fries, too!
#32 — Brazil
It makes sense that Brazil would land on the list of happiest countries in the world, as Brazilians have a reputation for being very social and friendly. Brazilians enjoy the tropical climate, forests and beaches that the country has to offer. The economy is on its way up, and currently sits as the ninth largest GDP in the world.
Brazilian culture has many influences, resulting in a diverse culture of cuisine, cinema, and music. Brazilians love their football, and their men’s team is consistently ranked one of the best national teams in the world.
#31 — Panama
In recent years, Panama’s economy has experienced a boom and has been named one of the fastest growing and best managed economies of Latin America. Major construction projects and tourism have largely contributed to steady economic growth.
Citizens of Panama enjoy festivals throughout the year and also have a culture rich with architecture, cuisine, pottery, and woodcarvings. With the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south, there’s plenty of leisure activities to enjoy by the water as well.
#30 — Spain
Spain is recognized as a high-income country with the fourteenth largest economy by nominal GDP in the world. Spain may be an old country but its citizens are forward-thinking. The country has invested in renewable energy and technology, as well as global corporations and petroleum companies.
The people of Spain rank high in health and life expectancy as the Spanish National Health System is named one of the best in the world. Spaniards also value social activities and have a rich history in the arts.
#29 — Qatar
The country of Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world and is the most advanced Arab state for freedom, opportunity, and well-being. The country is located on the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. If the construction of the proposed Salwa Canal goes through, Qatar will become an island.
Qatar has mild winters and hot and humid summers, leading many of its citizens to head to the sea for leisure and cooling off. The country’s culture prioritizes family and religion, and visitors should be aware of their culture and etiquette before visiting.
#28 — Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia boasts a healthy economy, one the largest economy in the Middle East and the 18th largest in the world. The country’s culture dates back to ancient times but the population is one of the youngest in the world with 50 percent of its population under 25 years old.
Unlike other countries on this list, the country does not have many social activities due to its religious restrictions. However, things are slowly changing, and the country is working to expand its entertainment offerings. In recent years, events such as comedy shows, professional wrestling, and monster truck rallies have appeared after a ban that spanned decades.
#27 — Guatemala
The most populated country in Central America, Guatemala is also one of the happiest in the world. Following the civil war that ended in 1996, Guatemala’s economy has continued to see improvement. Two mountain chains separate Guatemala into three regions which have different climates ranging from hot, humid, tropical areas by the beach to a colder, drier climate in the mountains.
The country’s land and beaches are stunning and tourism has become a generous contributor to Guatemala’s economy, including cruise ships. While there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of crime and poverty, Guatemala’s citizens are happy to see their daily life improving.
#26 — Chile
The Republic of Chile is one of the most economically and socially stable South American nations. Its the Latin American leader in income, economic freedom and opportunity. Chile is also a leader in globalization as a founding member of the United Stations, the Union of South American Nations and other organizations seeking to increase peace and economic stability.
The country’s topography is incredibly diverse, home to the Andes Mountains, the highest volcano in the world, Atacama desert, and long stretch of coastline. Because of this, Chileans enjoy a wide range of cuisine.
#25 — Taiwan Province of China
The island country of Taiwan has a long history and various names deriving from different time periods. The eastern mountains of Taiwan are forest, while the northern and central regions are subtropical. The country’s politics are currently going through a transitional period which also inhibits their foreign relations.
The “Taiwan Miracle” rapidly increased the country’s economic growth after 1950, with the help of economic aid by the United States. The economy continues to improve as does its educational system. Taiwanese students are among the world’s best in math, science, and literacy. Taiwan also has one of the world’s most highly educated work forces.
#24 — France
French people love their liberal arts and France is full of it. People travel from all around the world to see the artwork, historical monuments and festivals that France has to offer. French citizens are happy to enjoy one of the best universal health care systems in the world, with the system covering approximately 77% of its citizens’ health care.
The economy in France is also strong– it’s the tenth largest economy in the world and the EU’s second largest economy. There are many reasons to love living in France which is why it ranks the 24th happiest country in the world.
#23 — Mexico
Mexico is the tenth most populous country in the world with an estimated population of over 129 million people. Its economy is going strong as the 15th largest nominal GDP, and is the second-largest exporter of electronics to the United States. Mexico also produces more automobiles than any other country in North America.
Its future is bright, with big investments in communications and energy while it also remains to be one of the most visited countries in the world. While Mexico also faces its share of problems due to cartels and crime, overall, it’s one of the happiest countries in the world.
#22 — Malta
Although Malta is the world’s tenth smallest country, it’s also one of the happiest! The country has an estimated population of about 475,000 and has been inhabited since as far back as 5900 BC.
Located on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta has mild winters, hot summers and beautiful coastlines. Its economy relies on tourism and exporting limestone, tobacco and cotton. Most everything is imported, as the country has no domestic energy sources. Citizens of Malta are rated among the happiest in the world, and why wouldn’t they be? Their country truly is paradise.
#21 — United Arab Emirates
While the region of United Arab Emirates is rich with history as the land has been occupied for thousands of years, the country is still very young, with December 2, 1971 being its Independence Day .
The country’s resources are plentiful, including copper from the Hajar Mountains and oil drilling, both on land over the Buraimi Oasis and offshore over the Umm Shaif pearl bed. United Arab Emirates is also working to improve their healthcare and education systems, making for a bright future for its younger citizens.
#20 — Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is the most eastern country to land a spot in the top 20. They’ve slowly been climbing up the Happiness Index since breaking from the Soviet Bloc in 1991. The rating system cites the declining corruption levels in the Czech government, as well as their work-life balance.
The Czech Republic can also be a happy place for tourists. It’s one of the cheaper destinations to travel to and the population is definitely welcoming.
#19 — United States
The United States used to top the happiness list with ease, but has steadily dropped over the last decade. According to the World Happiness Report, opioid addiction, mental health disorders, obesity are the top reasons why Americans have become steadily unhappier.
On the bright side, there are a lot of reasons for Americans to be happy. Especially if you live in some of the happiest states like Hawaii, Utah, and Minnesota. When you’re surrounded by palm trees and have unlimited cheese, then there’s no reason to be unhappy!
#18 — Belgium
In comparison to the countries around them, Belgium does pretty darn well. They do manage to place way above France though who doesn’t even make it into the top 20. They boast a great work-life balance but still make better than average incomes.
Like many of their neighboring nations and Nordic friends up north, Belgium also has an excellent (free) education system and well-funded social aid programs to help citizens build networks.
#17 — Germany
Since the end of the Cold War, Germany has maintained a steady spot in the top 20 when it comes to happiness. One of the biggest things that boost Germany’s happiness index is the average citizen’s sporting groups and hobbies. They take their free time seriously.
Germans also rank high when it comes to flexibility and work. The country is overall pretty happy with their control over how many hours a day they work and how they spend their time.
#16 — Ireland
The Emerald Isle is home to some pretty happy people thanks to an increased life expectancy. They have increased their expectancy five years since 2000 and the government has increased their social aid programs too.
What’s most impressive is that Ireland has maintained their happiness levels on a pretty consistent scale even when they’ve suffered harsh economic times. They also rank as one of the top drinkers in the world, so maybe the beer has kept them happy.
#15 — United Kingdom
Slipping past Ireland, the United Kingdom lands 15th when it comes to happiness. While they have a comparable social support and life expectancy as Ireland, the U.K. has one of the best generosity rankings. When asked, more than 70% of U.K. citizens donate to charity regularly.
The United Kingdom used to rule the world and now they’re just struggling to make sure they’re happy on their own. It’s kind of like after you get out of a toxic relationship and have to find yourself. We believe in you, U.K.
#14 — Luxembourg
It’s one of the smallest countries in the world, but it’s also one of the happiest. Luxembourg is only 1,000 square miles and has barely 600,000 citizens but it also boasts the second-highest GDP per capita. The country is landlocked between Belgium, Germany, and France, but is filled to the brim with castles and old-world architecture.
Luxembourg is also one of the only trilingual countries in the world. They have one of the few truly trilingual education systems too.
#13 — Israel
After its creation in 1948, Israel has slowly increased its population. The nation is now home to more than 8 million citizens and has one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East. The country has some incredible exports on olive oil and caviar to add to its GDP.
The fact that Israel has managed to find themselves in the top 20 happiest countries despite their ongoing conflicts with surrounding countries is pretty impressive.
#12 — Costa Rica
The only Central American country to crack the top 20 is beautiful Costa Rica. The Spanish speaking national of over 4 million is a frequent tourist attraction. Its beautiful beaches and rainforests might be eye-catching, but Costa Rica also has a stable democracy and highly educated population.
One way they did this was completely getting rid of their army. That means all the money they would put towards the army is now spent on education and social programs.
#11 – Australia
The country “down under” used to be a staple in the top ten for happiness rankings, but it’s been dropping consistently over the last few years. The island nation has 23.8 million citizens but still has an impressive $67,000 GDP per capita. They also manage to have an average life expectancy of 82 years.
We’re not sure why they keep slipping in the rankings, especially since Australia has some of the most beautiful sandy white beaches in the world.
#10 — Austria
Drop a few letters from Australia and you have the next happiest country, Austria. Up two spots from 2018, the breathtaking European nation has broken into the top ten happiest countries. There’s only about 8.7 million people living in the country but it still boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates and one of the higher life expectancies.
Austrians get everything they want thanks to their government. They have an electoral participation rate of 75% (compare that to America’s 57%), which means Austrians are really taking control of their own destiny.
#9 — Canada
Oh, Canada. All around the world Canadians are known to be some of the nicest people and now they’re some of the happiest. Even though they’ve slipped two spots from 2018, they still have a pretty happy metric.
Some of the happiness indicators that are flaunted in Canada is a sense of free choice, opportunities available, and relative income equality. Also, they have poutine, which is one of their best-kept secrets. Maybe if every country covered their French fries with gravy, they’d all be a bit happier.
#8 — New Zealand
Three spots ahead of its more famous neighbor, New Zealand ranks number eight on the happiest countries list. The island of New Zealand is home to 4 million people (and 30 million sheep) that take being happy very seriously.
In 2018, their parliament passed a “Wellbeing Budget” that was all about being happy and is the first of its kind in the world. It included things like improving housing, reducing child poverty, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
#7 — Sweden
Okay, we’ve hit the Nordic countries. Sweden is the first of the group to appear on the list and they have sat in the top 10 for years. The Happiness Report boasts a huge GDP per capita, which basically means Swedish people make a lot more money per person than other countries.
Sweden has also kept their claws in the top ten spot thanks to its beautiful wilderness, hip cities, and love of IKEA. Anywhere with unlimited Swedish meatballs must be a happy place.
#6 — Switzerland
Switzerland once held the top spot on the Happiness Report. Even though they’ve dropped five spots since 2015, the nation of 8.4 million people still seems to be pretty happy. Alongside its top education and infrastructure system, Switzerland is also one of the healthiest countries.
They have one of the lowest obesity rates in Europe at only 8%. We’re not sure how they pull that off though considering they’re known for making delicious chocolate and cheese.
#5 — The Netherlands
The Dutch just keep getting happier and happier and they can thank their younger generations for it. They’ve somehow managed to quell teen angst because 94% of kids age 12-18 claim to be very happy with their lives. That’s thanks to their top education system and vast social programs.
The Netherlands is also probably pretty happy because they don’t have to worry too much about global warming. Only 21% of their population lives below sea level so they’ll survive the next apocalypse.
#4 — Iceland
Iceland routinely nabs one of the top spots when it comes to happiness for a variety of reasons. They’re rated as the best country when it comes to gender equality, has ultra-low taxes, and still provides free healthcare and education.
The not-so-icy country also might relate their happiness to their love of books. 10% of their population has published a book in their lifetime. Maybe reading can make you not only smarter, but also happier.
#3 — Norway
Norway is near the top of our list because, when it comes down to it, they’re one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Unlike other countries, Norway makes sure their GDP is spread equally between its citizens.
They have some of the lowest income and gender gaps in the world, and they have some of the highest job satisfaction rates. They also have some of the highest trust in their elected officials.
#2 — Denmark
Just like many of the other Nordic countries that top the happiness report, Denmark can thank a variety of social programs to explain why they’re so happy. Danes, in particular, have one of the best work-life balance ratings in the world, meaning they know how to play hard too.
The Danes also boast an impressive 100% literacy rate. Iceland loves to write books and Denmark loves to read them. I see a happiness connection when it comes to literacy.
#1 — Finland
The Nordic country to beat them all is Finland. The people of Finland enjoy all the social and political perks of other Nordic countries while also having one of the highest standards of living and lowest corruption levels.
The Fins love their high happiness rating so much that they have a “Rent A Finn” program where a tourist can get paired up with a happiness guide that takes them on a three-day vacation through the country.