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 after the past few years. 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 2022 World Happiness Report, Finland is the happiest country in the world for the fifth year in a row. It’s followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands in the annual survey released on Friday, March 18, 2022, that ranks countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. European countries, including Norway, Sweden, and Luxembourg dominate the rest of the top 10.
In fact, the only countries outside of Europe to make the top 10 in 2022 are Israel and New Zealand, which ranked ninth and tenth respectively. The United States gained three spots, coming in at 16 in the rankings this year, while the United Kingdom maintained its spot at 17 since last year. Meanwhile, China jumped from 84 to 72 in this year’s report, showing that people’s perception of how their country handled the pandemic could have also contributed to an overall rise in well-being.
Thanks to Finland’s extensive safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 paired with a high vaccination rate of its population, it continues to have one of Europe’s lowest COVID-19 mortality rates.
“In Finland as well, of course, people have been suffering,” Anu Partanen, author of The Nordic Theory of Everything told the Associated Press. “But again in Finland and the Nordic countries, people are really lucky because society still supports a system buffering these sorts of shocks.”
The 20 happiest countries in the world
In addition to Finland, here are the 20 happiest countries in the world, according to the 2022 World Happiness Report.
- New Zealand
- United States
- United Kingdom
Why is Finland the happiest country in the world?
The World Happiness Report bases its annual rankings of 146 countries using data from the main life evaluation question in the Gallup World Poll.
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 New Zealand’s 7.2 up to 7.821 for Finland at the top. Afghanistan had the lowest score at 2.404.
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.
“We find year after year that life satisfaction is reported to be happiest in the social democracies of northern Europe,” Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, a coauthor of the report, told the Associated Press in 2021. “People feel secure in those countries, so trust is high. The government is seen to be credible and honest, and trust in each other is high.”
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. (Vaccinated U.S. travelers can now enter Finland without presenting a negative COVID-19 test upon entry.)
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.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This article originally appeared online in March 2019; it was updated in 2020, 2021, and again on March 18, 2022, to include current information.