The study, conducted by the United Nations, ranked 156 countries on happiness levels using 2017-2019 data from Gallup World Poll surveys. The polls ask citizens to weigh in on factors including income, social support, life expectancy, freedom, trust, and generosity. You know, all the feel-good criteria.
The top 10 list (in descending order) includes Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Austria. (The United States moved up on the list this year from 19th to 18th.)
"The most important building blocks for a happy society are democracy, equality, good education, and high-quality child care, as well as taking care of each other. These values are very important for Finns." —Finnish Ambassador Päivi Luostarinen
Based on Finnish Ambassador Päivi Luostarinen's remarks during a 2018 Huffington Post interview, it sounds like the country took top place for good reason. "The most important building blocks for a happy society are democracy, equality, good education, and high-quality child care, as well as taking care of each other. These values are very important for Finns," she said.
For the different happiness factors, Finland ranked first for life evaluation, second for perceived social support, fourth for freedom from corruption, and fifth for freedom to make life choices.
Another trend in this years report is that Nordic countries have again come out on top. Since the World Happiness Report first came out in 2013, the five Nordic countries—Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland—have always been in the top 10.
"Nordic citizens experience a high sense of autonomy and freedom, as well as high levels of social trust towards each other, which play an important role in determining life satisfaction," the report reads. "Building a government that is trustworthy and functions well, and culturally, building a sense of community and unity among the citizens are the most crucial steps towards a society where people are happy."
Originally published March 5, 2018; Updated March 26, 2020.
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