These Are the 10 Happiest Countries in the World

On a scale of zero to 10, the average American's happiness rates at about 7. Where does that put the U.S. on the global scale?

These Are the 10 Happiest Countries in the World Photo (cc) by Lars Plougmann

The United States is the 13th happiest country in the world this year.

According to the fourth annual World Happiness Report, that’s a two-spot improvement from last year.

The 2016 edition of the report was released this week in advance of the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness on March 20. It’s produced by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network in conjunction with academic experts.

The report ranks more than 150 countries based on data about how people evaluate their lives on a scale of zero to 10. According to a New York Times report:

The field of happiness research has grown in recent years, but there is significant disagreement about how to measure happiness. Some scholars find people’s subjective assessments of their well-being to be unreliable, and they prefer objective indicators like economic and health data. The scholars behind the World Happiness Report said they tried to take both types of data into account.

Key factors affecting the rankings include:

  • Real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita
  • Healthy life expectancy
  • Having someone to count on
  • Perceived freedom to make life choices
  • Freedom from corruption
  • Generosity

This year, the “highest average life evaluation score” of 7.526 belongs to Denmark, making it the No. 1 happiest country for the third time in the past four years.

The lowest average life evaluation score is the 2.905 earned by the African nation of Burundi, where the New York Times reports a violent political crisis broke out last year.

The U.S. ranking was 7.104.

One of the experts behind the report is Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute and professor of sustainable development and health policy and management at Columbia University in New York City.

As he explains in a news release:

“Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the [UN’s] Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, the Goals themselves embody the very idea that human well-being should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives.”

The New York Times describes the happiest countries as “fairly homogeneous nations with strong social safety nets.” They are:

  1. Denmark
  2. Switzerland
  3. Iceland
  4. Norway
  5. Finland
  6. Canada
  7. Netherlands
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

The least happy countries all are located in Africa or the Middle East. They’re also all poor nations, and many of them have been rocked by war, disease or both, the New York Times reports. They are:

  1. Burundi
  2. Syria
  3. Togo
  4. Afghanistan
  5. Benin
  6. Rwanda
  7. Guinea
  8. Liberia
  9. Tanzania
  10. Madagascar

What average life evaluation score would you give the United States? Let us know below or on Facebook.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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