The Happiest Countries in the World

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Detailed Findings & Methodology

While money does not buy happiness, a certain amount of it is necessary to achieve a basic lifestyle threshold that can serve as the foundation for well-being. Partially as a result, the happiest countries tend to be relatively high income. In Costa Rica, the poorest country on this list, GDP per capita is $15,383, still more than in the majority of countries worldwide. In all but five countries on this list GDP per capita is over $35,000.

One of the most important components of happiness is a close social circle and strong personal relationships. Not surprisingly, people living in the happiest countries tend to have strong support networks. In every country on this list, at least 81% of the population have a close friend or family member they can count on any time. In all but four of the happiest countries, the share of the population with such strong social support is over 90%.

Personal freedom to make life choices can also have a profound impact on individual happiness, and the world’s happiest countries are generally home to populations with a strong sense of personal freedom. In Chile, 73.7% of the population are satisfied with their freedom to do whatever they choose with their life, the smallest share on this list. In the majority of countries on this list, over 90% of the population are satisfied with their freedom of choice.

Three other measures that have been found to support personal well-being were included in the World Happiness report. The first is healthy life expectancy, measured as the number of years an individual born in a given country can expect to live a healthy life. The second is generosity, a measure of the frequency and likelihood residents of a given country make charitable donations. The third measure is trust, represented as the share of individuals who perceive widespread corruption in government and or business institutions within their home country.

With few exceptions, the happiest countries score well on these metrics across the board.

One focus of the World Happiness Report 2018 is the happiness of immigrant populations in different countries. Notably, if ranked solely by the well-being of the foreign born population, the list of the happiest countries would change little. This is likely because a high quality of life in a given country benefits everyone living there.

Still, immigrants are generally less happy in the countries on this list than those who were born there. Possible explanations for the phenomenon vary from the natural tumult that can accompany a life changing international move to recent anti-immigrant sentiment and legislation in the United States and some Western European countries.

To identify the happiest countries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed The World Happiness Report 2018. The report is produced by the UN-initiative Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Researchers used a range of survey data from the 2015-2017 Gallup World Poll to rank happiness levels in 156 countries. GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy data for each country were obtained from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.