Ten years ago, the United Nations declared March 20 as the International Day of Happiness. “Since then, more and more people have come to believe that our success as countries should be judged by the happiness of our people,” states the 2023 World Happiness Report, which has just released its latest rankings of the world’s happiest countries.
So, which countries are most “successful” when measured in terms of happiness and overall life satisfaction? And what can we learn from the list and in traveling to these places?
What is the happiest country in the world?
According to the 2023 World Happiness Report, Finland is the happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row. It’s followed by Denmark, Iceland, Israel, and the Netherlands in the annual survey released on Monday, March 20, 2023, that ranks countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. European countries, including Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and Luxembourg dominate the rest of the top 10.
In fact, the only country beside Israel outside of Europe to make the top 10 in 2023 is New Zealand, which ranked 10th. The United States gained one spot, coming in at 15 in the rankings this year, while the United Kingdom dropped two spots since last year to 19.
Why are the Finnish so happy?
“We believe Finnish happiness stems from a close relationship with nature and our down-to-earth lifestyle,” stated Heli Jimenez, senior director of international marketing at Business Finland, which is part of the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
The World Happiness Report bases its annual rankings predominantly on data from the main life evaluation question in the Gallup World Poll.
In it, respondents are asked to rate their current lives on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the best possible life for them and 0 being the worst possible life. The countries that made the top 10 this year ranged from New Zealand’s 7.123 up to 7.8 for Finland at the top. Niger had the lowest score at 4.501.
While these results are based entirely on self-reported perceptions of satisfaction, factors that the Happiness Report says contribute to making these life evaluations better in each country include a higher GDP per capita, a strong social support system, higher life expectancy, greater freedom, absence of government and corporate corruption, and charitable giving.
“The findings are clear. The ethos of a country matters—are people trustworthy, generous, and mutually supportive? The institutions also matter—are people free to make important life decisions? And the material conditions of life matter—both income and health,” the Happiness Report concludes. “The development of virtuous behaviors needs a supportive social and institutional environment if it is to result in widespread happiness.”
The 30 happiest countries in the world in 2023
If you’re looking for inspiration for your upcoming travels and like the idea of traveling to a place where happiness isn’t in short supply, these are the 30 happiest countries in the world, according to the 2023 World Happiness Report.
- New Zealand
- United States
- United Kingdom
- Costa Rica
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
Can traveling to the happiest country in the world bring you greater joy?
In Finland, it’s a common belief that happiness is “a skill that can be learned,” according to the country’s tourism marketing organization Visit Finland, which last week unveiled a new “Masterclass of Happiness” program to help travelers discover their inner joy by better understanding why its residents have such a positive outlook.
Those who are interested in participating have until April 2, 2023, to apply; Visit Finland will then select 10 people to join the “four-day deep dive into what it takes to be truly happy”—free of charge.
From June 12 to 15, 2023, experienced coaches will guide participants on what it takes to lead a balanced life “that promotes happiness the Finnish way” based on four categories: nature and lifestyle, health and balance, food and well-being, and design. The program will take place at the Kuru Resort, a remote collection of private villas (each with its own spa and sauna) designed to connect guests with its natural surroundings—the Finnish Lakeland region, a forested area of central Finland covered in lakes.
Those who are not selected for the in-person masterclass can take the class online sometime in summer 2023 when Visit Finland plans to make it widely available.
Our success as countries should be judged by the happiness of our people.
The Visit Finland initiative comes at a time when people are struggling to find happiness.
“By any standard, 2022 was a year of crises, including the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, worldwide inflation, and a range of local and global climate emergencies,” the 2023 World Happiness Report stated.
According to a 2022 study of 12,000 people in 14 countries conducted by Oracle, 88 percent of people are looking for experiences that will make them smile and laugh, and nearly half (45 percent) of us have not felt true happiness in more than two years.
“We’ve all been through some very tough years, and around the world, we’re short on happiness,” stated Gretchen Rubin, coauthor of the Oracle report.
Finland’s friendly locals, thriving culture and coffee scenes, and unfettered access to nature all make it a great destination for those looking to find greater joy in their own travels.
Arts and culture lovers will be thrilled to explore Helsinki’s museums. In the past few years, Helsinki opened Amos Rex, a world-class contemporary art museum, and Oodi, an energy-efficient public library at the center of the city designed to be the nation’s “living room.”
If being outdoors makes you happiest, Finland has plenty of that, too. Like many other Nordic residents, Finns have a close relationship to nature and get outside even during the coldest months. Finland is also home to numerous islands, many of which make for an idyllic remote escape. For those who want to relax in a serious way, Finland has more than 3 million saunas.
This article was originally published in March 2019; it was most recently updated on March 20, 2023, to include current information.