Special Report

The Happiest Countries in the World

5. Austria
> Life satisfaction score: 7.5 (tied for 5th)
> Self-reported good health: 69% (tied-17th lowest)
> Employees working long hours: 8.6% (15th highest)
> Disposable income: $29,256 (9th highest)
> Life expectancy: 81.1 years (13th highest)

Austrians were among the most likely people of any nation to be employed. While across the OECD 65% of the working-age population was employed, in Austria, 73% of the population was. Additionally, residents were far more likely to feel they had job security, as the nation’s long-term unemployment rate was just 1.1%, far below the OECD’s rate of 2.7%. Residents were also quite happy with the quality of their community, with 95% stating they had a support network they could rely on in an emergency. Austria’s environmental quality was also quite high, potentially contributing to people’s’ happiness. Residents rated both air and water quality among the highest of any nation reviewed. High levels of government spending may have also enabled the country to provide public services, such as a social safety net and health care, that could drive up quality of life. Austria’s government spending totalled nearly 52% of GDP, among the most of any nation reviewed.

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4. Denmark
> Life satisfaction score: 7.6 (tied for 3rd)
> Self-reported good health: 71% (17th highest)
> Employees working long hours: 2.1% (4th lowest)
> Disposable income: $25,172 (15th highest)
> Life expectancy: 79.9 years (12th lowest)

Like other Scandinavian countries, Denmark’s government plays a large role in the lives of its citizens — the country has high tax rates and a comprehensive welfare system. The government’s total spending was equal to nearly 58% of GDP in 2013, second only to Finland. Excellent work-life balance likely contributed to Danes’ life satisfaction. Danes devoted an average of 16 hours a day to leisure activities and personal care, more than any other nation reviewed. Country-residents are also well-educated, having spent an average of 19.2 years in school, third-highest among countries reviewed. When asked if they could count on someone in times of need, 96% of Danish residents responded affirmatively, compared with less than 90% across the OECD.

3. Canada
> Life satisfaction score: 7.6 (tied for 3rd)
> Self-reported good health: 88% (3rd highest)
> Employees working long hours: 4.0% (11th lowest)
> Disposable income: $30,212 (7th highest)
> Life expectancy: 81.0 years (17th highest)

Canada’s per capita disposable income exceeded $30,000, and the net financial wealth of its residents exceeded $63,000, both among the highest figures of any nation measured by the OECD. However, high income and wealth alone do not explain residents’ happiness. In fact, the U.S. outperformed Canada in both measures, yet ranked just 17th in life satisfaction. Notably, while just 90% of Americans said they had someone they could rely on in an emergency — a measure used by the OECD to gauge the quality of communities — in Canada 94% said they had such a person, among the most of any nation. Canadians were also more likely to be working, and less likely to be unemployed, than their counterparties in the U.S., which also may contribute to residents’ higher evaluations of their lives.

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2. Norway
> Life satisfaction score: 7.7
> Self-reported good health: 73% (15th highest)
> Employees working long hours: 3.1% (6th lowest)
> Disposable income: $32,093 (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy: 81.4 years (10th highest)

Norway’s unemployment rate was just 3.5% last year, less than half the OECD’s unemployment rate of 7.9%. Many workers were also paid quite well. Full-time Norwegian workers earned $46,618 annually on average in 2012, among the highest personal earnings among countries reviewed. Much of the country’s wealth comes from energy sectors. Norway’s economy relies heavily on its oil industry, and it is one of the largest oil producers in Europe. Like nearly all countries with residents who rate their lives well, Norway’s environmental quality is good. As many as 96% of respondents said they were satisfied with the quality of their water, nearly the most among nations measured by the OECD.

1. Switzerland
> Life satisfaction score: 7.8
> Self-reported good health: 81% (7th highest)
> Employees working long hours: 7.3% (17th highest)
> Disposable income: $30,745 (5th highest)
> Life expectancy: 82.8 years (the highest)

For the second consecutive year, Switzerland ranked higher than any other country in the life satisfaction score. Few countries rated higher than the small Alpine nation in measures of wealth. Per capita, Swiss residents had $30,745 in household disposable income and net financial wealth exceeding $100,000 per capita. Jobs were also relatively abundant, with 79% of the working-age population employed, the second highest percentage of any country reviewed by the OECD. Residents were also more likely to feel secure in their jobs than people in any other nation considered. In addition to being wealthy and secure in their employment, residents were extraordinarily healthy. The life expectancy for Swiss residents was 82.8 years, the highest of any country measured by the OECD. Additionally, 81% of residents felt they were in good health, well-above the 69% of people across the OECD.

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