The Happiest Countries in the World

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15. Germany
> Happiness score: 7.0
> GDP per capita: $44,327
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 86.7%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 90.8%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 71.1 years

A sense of control over one’s future significantly contributes to overall happiness. In Germany, 86.7% of the population are satisfied with their personal freedom of choice — a larger share than in the vast majority of countries and a slightly higher share than the 83.5% of Americans.

As is the case in many Western European countries on this list, there is a high disparity in self reported happiness between residents born in Germany and those who immigrated to the country. The lower levels of happiness reported among migrants may be due in part to anti-immigrant backlash stoked by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s controversial decision to allow 1 million refugees into the country in 2015.

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14. Ireland
> Happiness score: 7.0
> GDP per capita: $62,699
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 89.1%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 95.2%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 71.6 years

Life satisfaction is higher in Ireland than in all but 13 other countries. Personal happiness can often depend on close personal relationships, and social connections are strong in Ireland. Some 95.2% of residents have a close friend or family member they can count on anytime, nearly the largest share of any country. Trust in institutions is relatively common in Ireland as only 38.2% of residents perceive widespread corruption in government and business, a smaller share than the majority of countries on this list.

Though Ireland’s GDP per capita of $62,699 is higher than all but six other countries worldwide, the figure is slightly misleading. Ireland’s per capita GDP spiked in recent years as major companies have moved assets to the country, largely from the United States. The practice, known as a corporate inversion, is typically employed to avoid higher corporate tax rates in the United States.

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13. Costa Rica
> Happiness score: 7.1
> GDP per capita: $15,383
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 90.5%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 90.2%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 69.7 years

Life satisfaction is higher in Costa Rica than in any other country in Latin America or the Caribbean. Though Costa Rica is the poorest country on this list, with a GDP per capita of just $15,383, residents of the small tropical nation generally have healthy social connections and a strong sense of control over their futures. About nine in every 10 Costa Ricans have a close friend or family member they can rely on any time, and a similar share are satisfied with their freedom to choose what they want to do with their life.

Unlike Chile and Mexico, the other two Latin American countries on this list, Costa Ricans born in the country are more likely to report high levels of life satisfaction that those who immigrated to the country.

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12. Austria
> Happiness score: 7.1
> GDP per capita: $44,574
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 89.3%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 92.0%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 72.0 years

Austria is a landlocked country in Western Europe that shares a border with three other countries on this list. Much like those neighbors, Austria is a relatively wealthy country with a socially connected, healthy population.

Austria’s GDP per capita of $44,574 is the 15th highest in the world. Additionally, Austrians’ healthy life expectancy at birth of 72 years is over two years longer than in the United States. Close personal relationships can be critical to personal happiness, and 92% of Austrians have a friend or family member they can rely on any time, a larger share than in the vast majority of countries.

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11. Israel
> Happiness score: 7.2
> GDP per capita: $32,588
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 76.5%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 89.1%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 72.0 years

Life satisfaction in the Middle East varies wildly. Nations in the region, such as Iraq and Yemen, rank among the least happy in the world. On the other hand, more affluent nations, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are among the happier countries, and Israel ranks as the happiest in the area. One contributing factor to happiness in Israel is the population’s relative good health — the country’s an average healthy life expectancy of 72 years is about two years longer than the U.S. average.

Compared to most of the happiest countries in the world, Israel is an outlier in one key measure — a sense of freedom. Just 76.5% of the population report they are satisfied with their freedom to make life choices, which ranks 80th among the countries considered in the World Happiness Report. In all 10 of the happiest countries in the world, more than 90% of the population report satisfaction with their sense of freedom.