People in the happiest countries in the world trust their governments and businesses, see themselves as free to make life decisions, and say they have good social support.
Having money doesn’t hurt.
In a dispatch called the World Happiness Report, an initiative of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a group of independent experts including economist Jeffrey Sachs surveyed people in 156 countries to find out how highly they evaluated their lives on a scale from 0-10.
The report took into account several factors, of which 6 were found to be the most important:
- Real GDP per capita Healthy life expectancy at birth Freedom to make life choices Generosity Perceptions of corruption
Given the strong role GDP plays in happiness, we asked Andrea Illy, one of the report’s patrons and the chair and president of Illycaffè, about the role companies play in helping to shape positivity in the workplace.
“I consider companies as the bricks of the society,” Illy told Business Insider, “because they produce the largest part of the GDP, employment and innovation. In a stakeholder company one can start building happiness by being inclusive and pursuing the triple bottom line (social, economic, and environmental sustainability).”
Here’s a snapshot of the top 21 countries on the 2017 list:
21. United Arab Emirates — The most significant factor in the UAE’s positive ranking was its GDP per capita, followed by its social support. Interestingly, the report’s scoring is based on country’s residents, which sometimes includes large numbers of non-Nationals. In the UAE, non-Nationals make up roughly 80% of the population.
20. Chile — The country moved up 4 places in the ranking since last year, largely thanks to its residents’ perceptions of good social support.
19. United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland also moved up a few spots in the ranking from last year, with social support and per capita GDP appearing to play the biggest roles in its score. In Britain, however, there were hugevariations across individuals in terms of life satisfaction, something the country had in common with the US, Australia, and Indonesia.
18. Luxembourg — This country’s GDP per capita played the strongest role of the 21 top countries in determining its place on the ranking. At a whopping $101,936, it’s the second-highest in the world.
Source: Business Insider UK
17. Belgium — This country ranked almost identically with Germany, with GDP and social support playing the strongest roles in its score.
16. Germany — The report found that any rise in overall income in this country had little effect on the overall life satisfaction of its residents. The same was found true for only 2 other countries: Britain and Australia.
15. Ireland — The country moved up 4 spots since last year’s ranking, and its score is based heavily on how residents ranked their social support. This is especially interesting given the economic crisis the country faced post-2007, the report’s authors write. “In respect to the post-2007 economic crisis, the best examples of happiness maintenance in the face of large external shocks were Ireland and … Iceland.”
14. United States — The country fell one place on the rankings, something the report’s editors attribute to social causes like less perceived personal freedom, lower social support, and mental illness. “America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, rather than an economic crisis,” they write.
13. Austria — Although its ranking was almost identical to the US, more of Austria’s ranking was accounted for by a higher perceived freedom to make life choices and a lower perception of government corruption.
12. Costa Rica — Out of all the countries in the top 21, Costa Rica had the lowest GDP per capita. Nevertheless, its high levels of social support and low levels of perceived corruption earned it an esteemed spot on the list. The country is also a leader in sustainability and renewable energy, having recently gone 76 days without using fossil fuels.
Source: Business Insider
11. Israel — The country ranked in the same spot as last year, thanks to its high GDP per capita and perceived social support. Out of the 21 happiest countries, it was also perceived to have the lowest government corruption, even though its former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was recently found guilty of corruption.
Source: The Guardian
10. Sweden — This country also held onto its place from last year, with social support, high GDP per capita, and healthy life expectancy earning it a place in the top 10.
9. Australia — The country did well overall, but social issues like mental and physical illness kept it from earning a higher place on the list, according to the report’s editors.
8. New Zealand — Despite having a slightly lower GDP per capita than Australia, the 2 countries rank almost identically on the list in terms of all 6 happiness factors except generosity, with Kiwis being slightly more generous than Aussies.
7. Canada — The country swapped places with the Netherlands in this year’s ranking, but still achieved a high score, with social factors like diversity playing the strongest role. “Highly diverse societies, such as Canada, have been able to achieve relatively high levels of social trust through programs aimed at promoting multiculturalism and inter-ethnic understanding,” the report’s authors write.
6. The Netherlands — The country and Canada have very similar happiness profiles, ranking neck-and-neck in terms of life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support, and perceived freedom to make life choices.
5. Finland — The country maintained its spot in the ranking this year. Four other Nordic countries also stayed in the top 5 happiest countries on the list.
4. Switzerland — The top 4 happiest countries on the list — all Nordic nations — are “clustered so tightly that the differences among them are not statistically significant,” the report’s editors write.
3. Iceland — Social support proved to be one of the most important factors considered in the rankings, and of all the nations surveyed by the Gallup World Poll, the percentage of people who reported having someone to count on in times of crisis, the highest was in Iceland.
2. Denmark — The country fell one place in the ranking, but retains a steady score based on all 6 of its happiness factors.
1. Norway — The country rocketed from 4th place to the top of the list. Notably, on The Children’s Worlds index of material deprivation, Norwegian children lacked the least in the world.