Special Report

The Happiest Countries in the World

10. Mexico
> Life satisfaction score: 7.3
> Self-reported good health: 66% (14th lowest)
> Employees working long hours: 28.6% (3rd highest)
> Disposable income: $12,732 (3rd lowest)
> Life expectancy: 74.2 years

Mexico received a high life satisfaction score despite receiving low scores in a number of categories that make up the OECD’s Better Life Index. No nation rated worse than Mexico in safety — the nation’s murder rate of 23.7 murders per 100,000 residents in 2011 was the highest of any OECD nation and more than 10 times the OECD average that year. Additionally, 13.1% of residents had been assaulted or mugged in 2012, also the highest of any nation considered. Mexico also ranked as one of the worst nations for both work-life balance and income. The nation had one of the lowest averages for household disposable income in the OECD, at just $12,732 as of 2010. This is less than a third of the average disposable income in the United States. However, none of these factors have prevented Mexicans from being satisfied with their lives. The continued economic and social problems have resulted in increasing pessimism in Mexico. No country measured by the OECD had a bigger drop in projected long-term well-being than Mexico between 2005 and 2012.

9. Finland
> Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (tied for 7th highest)
> Self-reported good health: 69% (18th highest)
> Employees working long hours: 3.9% (8th lowest)
> Disposable income: $25,739 (13th highest)
> Life expectancy: 80.6 years

People in Finland spent an average of 19.6 years getting an education, more than any other country in the OECD. Based on students’ average scores in reading, mathematics and science, Finland was considered to have the most accomplished students. The government, relative to the nation’s size, is one of the largest spenders in the developed world, providing a significant social welfare system. In 2012, the government’s total spending was equal to nearly 56% of GDP. Finland’s employment rate of 69% in 2011, although lower than quite a few other countries, was higher than the 66% average rate across all OECD countries. People in Finland worked just 1,684 hours annually, compared to 1,776 hours in all OECD countries. Just under 4% of all employees worked very long hours, compared to about 9% in all OECD countries. Women who worked full-time earned just over 80% of men’s wages, a wider gap than any of the happiest countries. However, women in the country actually averaged a higher level of life satisfaction than men.

ALSO READ: The Best (and Worst) Countries to Grow Old

8. Canada
> Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (tied for 7th highest)
> Self-reported good health: 88% (3rd highest)
> Employees working long hours: 3.9% (9th lowest)
> Disposable income: $28,194 (9th highest)
> Life expectancy: 81 years

Canada was rated among the top nations for residents’ good health. In 2011, 88% of residents surveyed reported they were in good health, higher than all countries except for the United States and New Zealand. Canada also had one of the higher average household disposable incomes among nations considered, at more than $28,000. This was well above the OECD average of $23,047. Canada was rated as one of the best nations in the OECD for housing — although there are some concerns in the country that a real estate bubble is forming. Like many of the countries with the highest life satisfaction, Canada’s poverty rate actually declined slightly during the recession.

7. Austria
> Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (tied for 7th highest)
> Self-reported good health: 69% (18th highest)
> Employees working long hours: 8.8% (14th highest)
> Disposable income: $28,852 (6th highest)
> Life expectancy: 81.1 years

Last year, just 4.7% of all workers in Austria were unemployed, less than any other nation in the eurozone, where the 2012 unemployment rate was 12.3%. As many as 72% of Austrians between the ages of 15 and 64 were employed in 2011, among the top 10 of all countries and better than the 66% average rate for OECD countries. Austria was in the top third of all countries in terms of both household financial net worth, at $47,458, and personal earnings for full-time employees, at $43,688. In addition, 96% of all residents indicated that the water quality was satisfactory, higher than all but two other countries and significantly better than the 87% who indicated that across all OECD countries. Austria also has high levels of civic participation — the voter turnout rate was 82% in 2008, the ninth highest among countries considered. Unlike many of the happiest countries, Austria had a high level of earnings volatility in the past few years, with more than a quarter of the population experiencing an earnings increase of 20% or more, while a similar number of people saw a decrease of 20% or more.

ALSO READ: The Most Unfair Countries for Women

6. Netherlands
> Life satisfaction score: 7.5 (tied for 5th highest)
> Self-reported good health: 76% (11th highest)
> Employees working long hours: 0.7% (2nd lowest)
> Disposable income: $25,493 (14th highest)
> Life expectancy: 81.3 years

The Netherlands was rated as one of the best countries for jobs by the OECD. In 2011, 73% of the population between 15 and 64 years old was employed, one of the highest proportions of all nation’s measured. Further, only roughly 1.5% of workers were unemployed for more than one year as of 2011, less than half the OECD average of 3.1%. Also, potentially contributing to residents’ happiness is the fact that 94% of residents said they had a support network they could count on for help if they were in trouble. This was one of the highest figures among countries measured. The Netherlands has one of the most generous unemployment insurance systems among countries measured by the OECD. The government replaces 75% of lost wages during the first phase of unemployment, the third highest replacement rate among the countries measured by the OECD.

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.