The past year has been life-changing for everyone in the world. From the smallest details of the way we live day-to-day, to how the world operates on a global scale, it’s safe to say things have been very difficult. In these unprecedented times, people have been searching to find answers to the all-important question: where is the best place to live in the world right now? Fortunately, the World Happiness Report has been released this week, unveiling the 10 happiest countries on the planet.
The World Happiness Report is released annually by the United Nations and surveys the state of global happiness, ranking 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. Last year, the pre-COVID report focused on environments for happiness, taking in data on the social environment, natural environment, happiness in cities and rural areas.
The report looks a little different this year thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. Though they still used the Gallup World Poll as the main source, it was also crucial for the report to factor in the link between the pandemic and wellbeing; and trust between governments and the public. Overwhelmingly, the data showed signs of resilience in the human spirit and the importance of feelings of social connection with others.
So, let’s get down to it. Scroll through to see which countries made the cut on the list…
Rounding out the Top 10 happiest countries list is the European nation of Austria, famed for dreamy landscapes with rolling green hills and pristine lakes, world-class architecture, culture and PRETZELS. Delicious, warm, fluffy pretzels. Who wouldn’t be happy here? From skiing in the Alps to classical opera in Vienna, there’s so much to do and see in this magical land, it’s no wonder the Austrians are smiling from ear to ear. It’s a must-visit for travellers and is considered one of the best places to move if you’re looking for a seachange.
9. New Zealand
With a sprawling coastline of beautiful beaches, jaw-dropping mountain peaks and adventurous activities, we’re not shocked to see New Zealand placed so high on this list. Especially when considering the strong link between outdoor spaces and happiness that the report established in 2020. The diverse landscape, a strong sense of community and the strength of Jacinda Ardern’s COVID-19 response have all contributed to the high-ranking happiness of Kiwis this year. As report contributor Professor Shun Wang said in the report, stringent government policies “not only control COVID-19 effectively but also buffer the negative impact of daily infections on people’s happiness.” We’ve never wanted to visit the land of the Kiwis more!
Formerly named ‘the happiest country’ in 2017, Norway comes in close behind some of its other Nordic counterparts. There’s so much to love about this European country, but what often strikes us most is its soul-stirring landscape. A drive through Norway is a constant surprise, with rugged landscapes and sophisticated cities aplenty. Like the rest of the nations on this list, Norway is also known for a stellar standard of living, including an impeccable welfare system and a sense of contentment with ‘less’ – AKA a love for the simple life. And during the pandemic, living simply was a common theme in self-isolation.
Germany hasn’t previously made the Top 10, but it seems satisfaction with life has improved for Germans despite the pandemic! Known for its mix of historic sights, natural beauty and cosmopolitan cities, Germany is considered one of the best places for traveller’s to visit in Europe and, now, one of the best places to live. See why Germans were previously named the “least-stressed” people in the world here.
Sweden combines incredible natural sites like glaciers and deep-blue archipelagos with a cosmopolitan capital in Stockholm, providing the best of both worlds on the report’s happiness index. Considering the report also greatly considered the role that trust in your government plays in ‘happiness’ – and the importance of work-life balance – it’s not surprising to see Sweden so high on the list. Outside of the Coronavirus outbreak, Sweden is considered to have one of the best welfare systems in the world, with Swedes receiving benefits such as subsidised prenatal care, 480 days of paid leave when a child is born or adopted and plenty of other healthcare and workplace benefits.
5. The Netherlands
Canal-lined cities, fields of tulips and Kinderdijk windmills are just some of the things that spring to mind when picturing the Netherlands. Famed for its cultural capital, Amsterdam, this nation is a huge draw for lovers of art and history – but don’t sleep on the green valleys or stunning national parks. With so much to explore in the Netherlands, it’s an obvious candidate for the top 10 happiest countries to live in – and explore – in the world.
Back in 2015, Switzerland was named the happiest country in the world and this European country is still one of the most joyous places on earth. Switzerland is famous for its natural beauty with the Swiss Alps, Lake Geneva, the Eiger and the Matterhorn. Considering the report’s suggestion in 2020 that there’s a direct link between green spaces and happiness, it makes a lot of sense to see this beautiful nation at number three. Plus, it’s the home of chocolate. What’s not to love?
Denmark won the top spot in 2012, 2013 and 2016. But, despite not taking out #1 this year, they’re clearly still maintaining the happiness of their people. The Danish are known for their laidback attitude to life, while their capital city Copenhagen is routinely listed as one of the most liveable cities in the world. From the iconic amusement park Tivoli to the beautiful coastline, there’s no shortage of ways to keep yourself occupied in Denmark.
Another over-achiever, Iceland has appeared high on the list of happiest countries many times before. The island, which sits in the North Atlantic sea off Europe, has seen a boom in tourism in recent years, with many nature-loving travellers flocking to the green hills and dramatic sites. Not to mention, it’s one of the best places to see the natural magic of the Aurora Borealis (or the Northern Lights).
And in news that should surprise absolutely no one… Finland has once again been named the happiest country in the world to live in! This is the fourth year in a row that the Finnish have taken the top spot, with the nation’s people reporting a strong satisfaction with life and confidence that they live in a place where people take care of one another.
We’ve long loved this land of excitement and wild beauty. Whether it’s skiing or snowboarding at resorts like Levi, Ruka and Saariselkä, trekking in the Riisitunturi National Park, or trying local cuisine in Helsinki, there are so many different sites to interest all travellers. Keen to pay a visit to the happiest country in the future? Check out our guide to Finland here.
The report reveals that the number of Nordic and Scandi countries in the Top 10 is unsurprising. They state that, on a cultural level, the most important factor these nations share is a sense of community, trust and social cohesion among citizens. They’ve also revealed that, overall, COVID-19 was not one of the main factors in personal evaluations of happiness done by participants.
“Surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people’s own evaluation of their lives,” said John Helliwell. “One possible explanation is that people see COVID-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody and that this has generated a greater sense of solidarity and fellow-feeling.”
You can read the World Happiness Report in full here.