Happiest Countries According to World Happiness Report 2015

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

Switzerland named happiest country on earth.

Switzerland named happiest country on earth.

According to the just released World Happiness Report, people in Switzerland clap the loudest as the happiest people, followed by Iceland and Denmark.

Canada, New Zealand and Australia also made the list of the top 10 most cheerful nations. The United States ranked 15th.

The least “happy” countries were noticeably ravaged by war and poverty and included Togo, Burundi, Syria, Benin, and Rwanda.

What is the World Happiness Report?

The World Happiness Report is an initiative of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network, first published in 2012. This study focuses on people’s evaluations of their lives based on life expectancy, wealth, freedom to make life choices, social support, generosity, and government corruption.

This report is somewhat different than this year’s Gallup’s Positive Experience Index poll, which I wrote about in my blog, The Happiest Country in the World. In that study, Latin America countries dominated the top 10 list with Paraguay coming in as number one, Interestingly enough, the US also ranked 15th in that poll. Apparently, we’re happy, but not ecstatic.

Researchers for the Gallup poll questioned people from different countries and asked how happy they felt the day before. Had they experienced enjoyment, smiled, or laughed? Had they learned something new or did something interesting the previous day? Were they treated with respect?

The World Happiness Report is more geared toward using happiness research to come up with better government policies. Researchers asked questions such as: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life? Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?

Personally, I take the Gallup poll more seriously since it questioned participants specifically about their feelings. However, since the World Happiness Report reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations of how joyful people feel, we can definitely take a few lessons away.

So what is the Swiss secret to happiness? True, Switzerland is extraordinarily beautiful and the people seem relaxed. They have a high standard of living, great public transportation, excellent healthcare, and the best chocolate.

And it’s hard not to notice that the countries at the top of the list were some of the wealthiest countries. But is there something else useful we can decipher from this report?

What Can We Learn?

World Happiness Report 2“There is no single key to happiness,” US economist Jeffrey Sachs, who led the team behind the World Happiness Report, explained. “Being rich? That’s good, but it’s only a modest part of the story.”

He pointed out that according to this study, living in a society where people are generous and volunteering are also important for happiness. No surprise there.

As I pointed out in my blog, Be a Giver, “givers” report an improved sense of well-being, lower stress levels, better physical and emotional health, and yes, increased happiness. As seen from this latest study, it also helps if you are surrounded by other people who give generously. Obviously, it pays to choose your friends wisely.

Come On Get Happy!

The good news is that in general, the world is feeling happier. Over the past three years, 51 per cent of categories measured – which included people’s happiness with their work, health, material well-being, relationships, social support and local environment –had improved or showed no change.

Moreover, the proportion of people selecting the highest ratings for each aspect of personal well-being had increased significantly, with over a quarter (26.8 per cent) of people rating their life satisfaction at the highest levels, compared with only 5.6 per cent at the lowest.

So join the crowd and get happier. You don’t have to live in Switzerland to know you’re happy and clap your hands proudly!

Images courtesy of dan and Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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6 Responses

  1. Really interesting Julie and have been to Switzerland a couple of times I can’t say I’m surprised they ranked so well on the happy meter if for no other reason that the shear beauty of the country. Sadly, no surprises at the bottom of the list either. As far as the U.S., can’t speak for the rest of the country but we’re pretty happy here in Hawaii. 🙂

  2. Interesting read, Julie. Thanks for the clarification on how results were determined in the 2 surveys.

    Though I make no claims other than my subjective sense of things, I definitely felt people around me were far happier in my past home in Nelson, BC, compared to my current home in south Florida.

    Honestly, I don’t think I have ever lived anywhere that seemed as generally “angry” as south Florida, despite (or perhaps because of?) the fact that I’m surrounded by very wealthy people here.

    Aside from my past home in Nelson, another place that sticks out for me as especially “happy” so far as interpersonal interactions is, believe it or not, Ethiopia. That may have just been my experience there, but it left a particularly powerful impression–and it seemed very genuine. Conversely, when I lived in Thailand (aka, “The Land of Smiles”), I found that many people were very unhappy under the surface…but kept smiling and acting pleasant because that was expected and “proper.”

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insightful thoughts as a well-traveled person. Your thoughts about Ethiopia match my experience while traveling to another poor country, Paraguay, which I wrote about in my blog based on a Gallup poll, The Happiest Country in the World. Paraguay topped their list as the happiest place on earth. Which surprised me and then didn’t. While one of the poorest countries, the people there seemed genuinely happy. Proof again that money doesn’t always equal happiness.

  3. Suzie Cheel says:

    Interesting the top 5 countries are all for me cold- ie cold winters- does that factor in i wonder0 more time indoors? Have been to Switzerland, Denmark and Canada all wonderful countries and Happy to see Australia makes the top 100.

    We were just talking about Happiness and money this morning , interesting 🙂 xx

    • juliegorges says:

      I noticed that too. Interestingly enough, one of the co-authors of the report, John Helliwell who is Canadian, reflected on this: “It may not be a complete coincidence that cold countries are happier, he said at the press conference. “In a harsh climate, it’s precisely where you have to develop these capacities to collaborate or you won’t survive.” However, later he called that an “off-handed observation.” Another co-author of the report, Jeffrey Sachs said, “I would caution first of all any geographic determinism,” while adding, “I would take it as an interesting observation for reflection.”

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