What's new

Rating Countries for the Happiness Factor


Oct 7, 2007
A study pulled together from sources and surveys found that good health care and education are as important as wealth to modern happiness

Feeling sad? Researchers at Britain's University of Leicester reckon you might just be in the wrong country. According to Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at Leicester who developed the first "World Map of Happiness," Denmark is the happiest nation in the world.

White's research used a battery of statistical data, plus the subjective responses of 80,000 people worldwide, to map out well-being across 178 countries. Denmark and five other European countries, including Switzerland, Austria, and Iceland, came out in the top 10, while Zimbabwe and Burundi pulled up the bottom.

Not surprisingly, the countries that are happiest are those that are healthy, wealthy, and wise. "The most significant factors were health, the level of poverty, and access to basic education," White says. Population size also plays a role. Smaller countries with greater social cohesion and a stronger sense of national identity tended to score better, while those with the largest populations fared worse. China came in No. 82, India ranked 125, and Russia was 167. The U.S. came in at 23.

IT'S SUBJECTIVE. White's study, to be published later this year, was developed in part as a response to the British media's fascination with life satisfaction. A recent BBC survey concluded that 81% of Britain's population would rather the government make them happier than richer.

Despite its often bleak weather, England ranked relatively happy at 41. "There is increasing political interest in using measures of happiness as a national indicator along with measures of wealth," White says. "We wanted to illustrate the effects of global poverty on subjective well-being to remind people that if they want to address unhappiness as an issue the need is greatest in other parts of the world."

To produce the "Happy Map," White dug deep. He analyzed data from a variety of sources including UNESCO, the CIA, The New Economics Foundation, and the World Health Organization. He then examined the responses of 80,000 people surveyed worldwide.

MONEY STILL COUNTS. Good health may be the key to happiness, but money helps open the door. Wealthier countries, such as Switzerland (2) and Luxembourg (10) scored high on the index. Not surprisingly, most African countries, which have little of either; scored poorly. Zimbabwe, which has an AIDS rate of 25%, an average life expectancy of 39, and an 80% poverty rate, ranked near the bottom at 177. Meanwhile, the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis gave fellow Africans in Burundi, ranked 178, even less to smile about, despite their having a slightly lower poverty rate of 68%.

Capitalism, meanwhile, fared quite well. Free-market systems are sometimes blamed for producing unhappiness due to insecurity and competition, but the U.S. was No. 23 and all the top-ranking European countries are firmly capitalist—albeit of a social-democratic flavor.

White says the only real surprise in his findings was how low many Asian countries scored. China is 82, Japan 90, and India an unhappy 125. "These are countries that are thought as having a strong sense of collective identity, which other researchers have associated with well-being," he says.

ARE WE HAPPY YET? White admits that happiness is subjective. But he defends his research on the grounds that his study focused on life satisfaction rather than brief emotional states. "The frustrations of modern life, and the anxieties of the age, seem to be much less significant compared to the health, financial, and educational needs in other parts of the world."

One of the study's intentions was to see how Britain, given media preoccupation with well-being, fared compared to other parts of the globe. His conclusion: "The current concern with happiness levels in the U.K. may well be a case of the 'worried well.'"

No. 1: Denmark

Population: 5.5 million
Life Expectancy: 77.8 years
GDP Per Capita: $34,600

With a high standard of living, negligible poverty, and a broad range of public and social services, it's easy to see why Denmark tops the happiness map. There's a high level of education; public schools are top-quality and private ones are affordable. The low population gives the nation a strong sense of identity. And Denmark's physical beauty forms a great backdrop to daily life. The weather is a bit tough, though.

No. 2: Switzerland

Population: 7.5 million
Life Expectancy: 80.5 years
GDP Per Capita: $32,300

Smack in the middle of Europe and surrounded by picture-postcard scenery, Switzerland ranks second among the world's happiest countries. It has a low crime rate, good infrastructure, and a wealth of outdoor activities, from skiing in the Alps to boating on Lake Geneva. Home to the International Red Cross, the World Health Organization, and parts of the U.N., it's not surprising that the Swiss devote a large portion of private and public money to health care — spending an average of $3,445 per person. It's pretty peaceful, too: years of political neutrality have sheltered the Swiss from the conflicts of their neighbors.

No. 3: Austria

Population: 8.2 million
Life Expectancy: 79 years
GDP Per Capita: $32,700

Another Alpine hotbed of happiness, Austria also boasts beautiful scenery and a surprisingly rich cultural scene. Like many of the world's happiest countries, it boasts a strong health-care system, as evidenced by the long average life expectancy of its citizens. Strict environmental regulations are starting to pay dividends, says Oskar Hinteregger, of the Austrian National Tourist Office. He credits the country's happy mood to its relaxed atmosphere, efficient public transport system, and general cleanliness. Austria does have some poverty, though: nearly 6%

No. 4: Iceland

Population: 300,000
Life Expectancy: 80 years
GDP Per Capita: $35,600

There's more to Iceland than hot springs and Björk. The tiny country's extensive welfare system plays a big part in its citizens' happiness. The Icelandic government offers a broad range of services, such as generous housing subsidies, and with very little poverty, wealth is evenly distributed among Icelandic society. Literacy is high and unemployment, at 2.1%, is low.

No. 5: Bahamas

Population: 303,800
Life Expectancy: 65.6 years
GDP Per Capita: $20,200

Bahamanians know how to enjoy life. “Maybe it's our 'Bahama Mamas,' our sweet sea breeze, our conch salad, and fun loving people,” suggests Kendenique Campbell-Moss, a senior executive at the Bahamas Tourism Ministry. Although the poverty rate, at 9.3%, is relatively high, the beautiful weather and laid-back lifestyle keep Bahamas' citizens smiling. Campbell-Moss also reckons the fusion of African and European cultures, strong family values, and Christianity contribute to the happy vibe in the Caribbean country.
Read the story

No. 6: Finland

Population: 5.2 million
Life Expectancy: 78.5 years
GDP Per Capita: $30,900

It's dark and cold in the winter and has some of the highest taxes in Europe. But that doesn't get in the way of Finns' overall happiness. High quality medical care — at little to no cost — contributes to the country's high average life expectancy. The country's free educational system is one of the best, resulting in a 100% literacy rate. Poverty is rare; so too, is extreme wealth. “Our beloved government makes sure that taxes are high enough to prevent easy ways to riches,” says Jaakko Lehtonen, director-general of the Finnish Tourism Board. “Finns think a good salary is two cents higher than your neighbor's; it's enough to make you feel wealthy and subsequently, happy,” he says.

No. 7: Sweden

Population: 9 million
Life Expectancy: 80.50 years
GDP Per Capita: $29,800

Taxes are high and the winter is trying. But social equality, one of the best welfare systems in Europe, and a great work/life balance keep Swedes smiling. Parents get extensive maternity and paternity leave, and child care is heavily subsidized and available to all. Sweden also has unusually transparent government and a strong emphasis on ensuring the freedom and equality of its people. “Ordinary citizens in Sweden have the right to see the prime minister's official mail, and they often exercise that right,” notes Susanna Wallgren, of the Swedish Tourism Board.

No. 8: Bhutan

Population: 2.3 million
Life Expectancy: 55 years
GDP Per Capita: $1,400

Here's a surprise: The small Asian nation of Bhutan ranks eighth in the world, despite relatively low life expectancy, a literacy rate of just 47%, and a very low GDP per capita. Why? Researchers credit an unusually strong sense of national identity. Plus, the country has beautiful scenery and a largely unspoiled culture, thanks to strict governmental limits on tourism, development, and immigration. Pretty counterintuitive, but Bhutan seems to have found a recipe for happiness.

No. 9: Brunei

Population: 380,000
Life Expectancy: 75
GDP Per Capita: $23,600

It helps to have oil. Wealthy and politically stable, Brunei's government plays a major role in its citizens' happiness. The same family has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for more than six centuries, providing free medical services and education. Even university-level education is paid for by the government, which also subsidizes rice and housing. That ensures virtually nonexistent poverty.

No. 10: Canada

Population: 33 million
Life Expectancy: 80 years
GDP Per Capita: $34,000

Canada may sometimes feel overshadowed by its giant neighbor to the south, but a strong sense of national identity and abundant natural beauty help make the sprawling and sparsely populated country one of the world's happiest. Canada also punches above its weight economically, with a huge $1.1 trillion GDP and per-capita that ranks among the world's highest. It also has strong health care and a low crime rate.

No. 11: Ireland

Population: 4 million
Life Expectancy: 77.7 years
GDP Per Capita: $41,000

Once so poor that its citizens fled by the millions, the Celtic Tiger has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth over the past dozen years. Credit membership in the European Union and a can-do attitude has raised standards of living and even lured former immigrants back home. The excellent education system, open economy, and relaxed pace of life all contribute to the overall happiness of the Irish.

No. 12: Luxembourg

Population: 474,500
Life Expectancy: 79 years
GDP Per Capita: $55,600

Luxembourg's position proves that sometimes money can buy happiness. It has the highest GDP per capita in the world. And with great access to education, 100% of the population is literate. The people of Luxembourg should find comfort in their surroundings, too. Mercer Resource Human Consulting ranked the city-state as the safest in the world in 2005.

Rating Countries for the Happiness Factor


Oct 7, 2007
Worth Noting:

-Smaller countries with smaller populations fare better.
-Social equality plays a major part
-Strong cultural and national identity.
-Obviously, income, education and healthcare are the most important.
-Countries with clean environment and natural beauty are happier.


Oct 7, 2007
I'm kinda surprised that Japan is so highly unhappy.

It has a homogenous society, its people are rich, mainly atheists though.


Oct 7, 2007
isn't it greenland which is totally ice?? :what:
LOL..........yeah I did exaggerate a bit there.

Did you know, that Iceland is considered the most developed country in the world? Its human development index is .968. The highest in the world.


Dec 17, 2007
LOL..........yeah I did exaggerate a bit there.

Did you know, that Iceland is considered the most developed country in the world? Its human development index is .968. The highest in the world.
haha, really?!?! Thats a surprise, never would have imagined. :woot:

solid snake

Nov 29, 2006
These ratings are useless. According to one I've seen the Palestinian territories and Bangladesh are rated as happier than Pakistan :crazy:

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Total: 1, Members: 0, Guests: 1)

Top Bottom