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Europe Voted The World’s Happiest Place

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

If you’re happy and you know it, you probably live in Europe, according to the latest World Happiness Report.

Fifteen of the world’s top 20 happy places are European countries – and five of the top seven are Scandinavian.

The happiest people live in Finland’s chilly, snowy nation, with Denmark and Iceland taking second and third places.

Northern neighbours Norway and Sweden take the sixth and seventh rankings. Intervening are the Netherlands(4) and Israel(5).

The only non-European nation in the top ten is New Zealand (10), but Australia(12), Canada(13) and the USA (15) are just a little behind.

What Makes The Finns Such Happy People?

The World Happiness Report has charted the world’s mood for ten years – and for the past six, Finland has come out on top.

No one is exactly sure why, but the reasons put forward by researchers include wage equality – a smaller gap between the lowest and highest paid than most countries, high social support, freedom to make personal lifestyle choices and low levels of corruption.

Finland also has an extensive publicly funded health system, while public transport is reliable and affordable. The airport in the capital Helsinki is ranked the best in Northern Europe.

The Report asks some simple questions. To measure their happiness, the Report asked people to imagine a ten-rung ladder and decide which rung they would stand on regarding their general happiness and well-being.

Most Finns chose the top rung.

For many, an old Finnish proverb seems apt – Happiness is a place between too little and too much.

Why Aren’t Norwegians, Swedes And Danes As Happy As Finns?

Again, no one knows even though each country lies close to the others, the languages are related, while culture and lifestyles are similar.

Finland ranks in the top three of more than 100 global economic and social performance measures despite having little money generated from exploiting oil and gas compared with Norway.

Democracy and freedom to live as one sees fit impact the rankings greatly.

Finland and countries with an open democracy and regular free elections are higher up the rankings than countries with more government control and less freedom, such as Hungary, India and Turkey.

World’s Top 10 Happiest Countries

10New Zealand
Source: World Happiness Report

World’s Top 10 Unhappiest Countries

Although Lebanon and Afghanistan took the bottom two rankings, Africa is the unfortunate backdrop for eight of the world’s unhappiest countries.

Afghanistan is the unhappiest country after decades of civil war ending with the Taliban finally toppling the government after the US and UK armed forces departed. Afghans suffer under a strict Muslim government that limits freedoms, especially for women. At the same time, the economy is collapsing, and the population is facing famine and a humanitarian crisis.

Lebanon, the second unhappiest place, has lived under the shadow of civil war for many years, leaving a power vacuum of economic and political uncertainty.

The African nations at the bottom of the list suffer from a lack of identity, economic chaos, civil war, and famine in most cases.

130Sierra Leone
128Democratic Republic of Congo
Source: World Happiness Report

Happiness In Expat Destinations

Expats don’t seem to move to improve their happiness.

The UK sits in 19th place in the World Happiness Report, with similar scores to the most popular expat destinations – Australia, USA, Canada and Ireland – and far ahead of Spain (32), the second most popular British expat destination.

The table lists global destinations for British expats by population alongside their happiness ratings.

RankingCountryExpat populationHappiness rating
3United States678,00015
6New Zealand215,00010
7South Africa212,00085

How Do You Measure Happiness?

The World Happiness Report is based on people ranking their well-being on a score of one to ten.

This simple rating system does not account for the factors that make one person happier than another. So, researchers started looking at what features in different countries promote or deny happiness.

The result was startling. Researchers discovered the culture of a country matters.

People are happier in places where others are trustworthy, generous, and mutually supportive.

The institutions also matter. People should be free to make important life decisions, while the material conditions of life are important – like income and health.

World’s Happiest Countries FAQ

Curious about the World Happiness Report? Here are some commonly asked questions about this influential measure of well-being and happiness globally.

Who runs the World Happiness Report?

A group called the Sustainable Development Solutions Network publishes the World Happiness Report on behalf of the United Nations. The report has been published each year since 2012 and is drafted from a global survey conducted by academics and intellectuals at leading universities.

Click here for a free download of the World Happiness Report 2023

Why is the World Happiness Report important?

The World Happiness Report is a measure of people’s well-being. This performance indicator is becoming more important in politics as governments strive to develop policies that improve well-being. The report can show how successful such initiatives might be.

Where does the happiness data come from?

The rankings are based on the results of a series of world surveys by pollsters between 2020 and 2022. The main research comes from the main poll question called the Cantril Ladder. People are asked if they had to score their best possible life from one to ten, then which step of the 10-rung ladder would they be on?

The data is collected from more than 100,000 people across 130 countries.

What is Dystopia?

Dystopia is an imaginary place where the world’s unhappiest people live. Dystopia is the benchmark for measuring happiness, and no country performs worse than Dystopia. As life would be unpleasant in a country with the world’s lowest incomes, lowest life expectancy, lowest generosity, most corruption, least freedom, and least social support, it is referred to as Dystopia in contrast to Utopia.

What are the unhappiest European countries?

Unsurprisingly, Ukraine ranks as the unhappiest European country, resting at 92nd. The score is no shock considering Ukraine has been at war with Russia since February 2022, suffering awful acts of barbarism and genocide at the hands of President Vladimir Putin’s troops.

Other countries performing badly are North Macedonia (87), Albania (83) and Bulgaria (77).

What is the happiest country outside Europe?

In 12th place, Australia takes the crown as the happiest country outside Europe.

How hard is it to stay happy?

It’s very hard for people to stay happy when the World Happiness Report reveals that between 2006 and 2016, 78 per cent of the world’s population lived in countries undergoing civil strife or under a government which subjected them to state repression.

Below is a list of related articles you may find of interest.


  1. Sustainable Development Solutions Network – World Happiness Report: Link
  2. Cantril Ladder Survey: Link
  3. United Nations: Link
  4. World Happiness Report 2023: Link

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