The Happiest Countries in the World

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Source: Ryan Wick / Flickr

10. Australia
> Happiness score: 7.3
> GDP per capita: $44,374
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 91.8%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 94.8%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 72.7 years

Generous people are more likely to report greater well being, and Australians are more likely to make regular charitable donations than residents of any other country on this list, with the exception of Malta. Australians are also relatively unencumbered by corruption. Just 38.9% of the population perceives widespread corruption in business and government institutions in the country, one of the smallest such shares of any country.

Perhaps the most critical component of personal happiness is a strong social support network. In Australia, nearly 95% of the population report having a close friend or family member they can rely on, nearly the largest such share in the world.

Source: Thinkstock

9. Sweden
> Happiness score: 7.3
> GDP per capita: $46,638
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 92.9%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 91.9%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 72.7 years

Sweden is home to one of the healthiest populations in the world. An individual living in the country from birth can expect to live an average of 72.7 of healthy years, the third longest healthy life expectancy of any country on this list. The Swedish also face relatively little oppression in the way of corruption. Fewer than 24% of the country’s population perceives rampant corruption in either the government or business, nearly the smallest share of any country in the world.

Though Sweden ranks as the ninth happiest country, its happiness score falls below that of every other Nordic country.

Source: stefaniedesign / iStock

8. New Zealand
> Happiness score: 7.3
> GDP per capita: $35,221
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 93.7%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 96.0%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 71.6 years

New Zealand is the happiest country in Oceania and the eighth happiest in the world. The country’s high subjective well being score is due in large part to close social connections between residents. Nearly everyone in New Zealand — 96% of the population — has a close friend or family member they can count on any time, the second largest share of any country.

New Zealanders’ sense of life satisfaction is relatively unfettered by institutional corruption. Just 22.9% of the population perceives widespread corruption in government and business, nearly the smallest share of any country.

Source: Thinkstock

7. Canada
> Happiness score: 7.3
> GDP per capita: $43,036
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 92.4%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 93.2%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 72.2 years

While anti-immigration sentiments seem to be growing in many parts of Europe and the United States, Canada has taken in close to 100,000 refugees in the past two years, and an estimated 20,000 people have illegally crossed the border from the United States into Canada seeking asylum in the last year. Even though locally born Canadians are happier on average than foreign born residents, Canada’s immigrant population is one of the happiest in the world.

A strong sense of social connectedness likely contributes to overall happiness in the country. Some 93.2% of Canadians have a close friend or family member they can count on any time, a slightly larger share than the 90.6% of Americans.

Source: Thinkstock

6. Netherlands
> Happiness score: 7.4
> GDP per capita: $47,464
> Pop. satisfied with their personal freedom: 91.1%
> Pop. with close friends or family: 91.4%
> Healthy life expectancy at birth: 71.6 years

Those who spend time and money helping others are more likely to be happy — and Dutch people are among the most generous in the world. The Dutch are more likely to make regular charitable contributions than residents of all but seven other countries worldwide. They also have a high level of trust in their countries institutions. Just 40.3% of Netherlands residents perceive widespread corruption in government and or business, one of the smallest shares globally.

Like several other Western European countries on this list, the difference in happiness scores between foreign born Netherlands residents and those born in the country is relatively large. The relatively unhappy immigrant population may be the result of growing anti-immigrant and specifically anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.