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The World’s Happiest Country Is All About Reading, Coffee, and Saunas

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With more than 3 million saunas and landscapes as pretty as this, it’s no wonder Finland is the happiest country in the world.

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With more than 3 million saunas and landscapes as pretty as this, it’s no wonder Finland is the happiest country in the world.

Finland topped the World Happiness Report for the third year in a row, followed closely by Denmark, Switzerland, and Iceland.

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Note: Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

From the feelings that travel gives you when you’re exploring the world to how you hold on to those memories back at home, happiness is something we think a lot about here at AFAR, especially in uncertain times like these. So naturally we were curious to see which country came out on top in the latest World Happiness Report.

What is the happiest country in the world?

According to the 2020 World Happiness Report, Finland is the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row. It’s followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway in the annual survey released on Friday that ranks countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. European countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Austria, dominate the rest of the top 10.

In fact, the only country outside of Europe to make the top 10 in 2020 is New Zealand. The United States rose one spot, coming in at 18 in the rankings this year, while the United Kingdom jumped from 15 to 13 since last year.

Drinking coffee might not make you happy, but enjoying it outdoors, as Finns do, could help.

The 20 happiest countries in the world

In addition to Finland, here are the 20 happiest countries in the world, according to the 2020 World Happiness Report.

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Switzerland
  4. Iceland
  5. Norway
  6. The Netherlands
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Austria
  10. Luxembourg
  11. Canada
  12. Australia
  13. United Kingdom
  14. Israel
  15. Costa Rica
  16. Ireland
  17. Germany
  18. United States
  19. Czech Republic
  20. Belgium

Why is Finland the happiest country in the world?

The World Happiness Report bases its annual rankings of 156 countries using data from the main life evaluation question in the Gallup World Poll.

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In it, respondents are asked to rate their current lives on a 0 to 10 scale 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 Luxembourg’s 7.238 up to 7.809 for Finland at the top. Afghanistan had the lowest score at 2.567.

While these results are based entirely on self-perception, factors that the Happiness Report says contribute to making these life evaluations better in each country include a high GDP per capita, a strong social support system among friends and family, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, absence of corruption in government and the business world, and generosity when it comes to donating to charity.

If you’ve ever considered a move abroad, these categories are something to take into mind while starting your life as an expat. But Finland’s friendly locals, thriving culture and coffee scenes, and unfettered access to nature all make it a great destination even if you have only a week to take off on vacation.

Northern Exposure: Dipping into Finland’s Sauna Fascination
Helsinki opened Oodi, a 185,677-square-foot public library, in the city center in 2018.

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. For those who want to relax in a serious way, Finland also has more than 3 million saunas.

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Looking for ways to practice Finnish happiness at home? Here are seven lessons you can pull from Finnish culture, so you can learn to revel—even in the darkness.

This article originally appeared online on March 20, 2019; it was updated on March 20, 2020, to include current information.

>> Next: The Traveler’s Guide to Happiness