In recent years we can turn to the World Happiness Report for a list of the happiest countries on earth. The report is published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and it is written by independent experts in the fields of psychology, economics, neuroscience, statistical analysis, and more.
The origins go back to a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2011. The purpose was to shift focus in how a country’s social and economic development is measured. The traditional indicator has been GDP (gross domestic product), but that doesn’t provide any measure of the actual happiness and well-being of people.
Stating that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”, this resolution called for taking steps toward placing more importance on “gross national happiness” as a marker of success. The idea was that the data could be used to help guide public policies.
The exact data used, as well as how it is gathered and evaluated, involves a complex process. That makes for a complex report as well, because it goes into great detail in providing information and explanations to support the findings. At 167 pages it’s no quick read, but if you’re interested, the entire 2015 report is available here: World Happiness Report 2015.
Generally speaking, some of the ranking factors that are considered include:
- GDP per capita in terms of Purchasing Power Parity
- Social Support – having friends or relaitives you know you can depend on if you need help
- Healthy Life Expectancy at birth
- Freedom to Make Life Choices – a measure of satisfaction/dissatisfaction with level of freedom to choose what you do with your life
- Perceptions of Corruption – perceptions of the prevalence of corruption in both government and business
- Positive Affect – a measure of the average of laughter and enjoyment
- Negative Affect – a measure of the average of worry, sadness, and anger
Who’s the Winner?
In 2015, a total of 158 countries were included in the report, and the honor of happiest country on earth goes to…
Though it didn’t factor into the official judging criteria, maybe one reason the people in Switzerland are so happy is due to the incredible beauty of the country. (See more photos below.)
The famous Swiss Alps are just one geographic region of the country, the other two being the Jura mountains in the northwest, and the central plateau that is known for its rolling hills and large lakes. Climate varies with altitude and ranges from cold snowy winters to warm humid summers.
Per capita, the GDP is very high, and the crime rate is very low. Major industries are banking and tourism. Another is manufacturing, and this is a country with a respectable reputation for producing high quality rather than high quantity.
Then of course there is the chocolate. Research has proven that chocolate causes the brain to release dopamine, and the Swiss not only make the best chocolate in the world but also consume quite a lot of it. That doesn’t mean they’re fat. On the contrary, Switzerland has one of the lowest obesity rates you’ll find anywhere.
Surely there must be a few drawbacks to living in Switzerland, but they’re hard to find. Oliver Smith wrote an amusing article giving the country lots of high praise, but he also complains that it’s boring: “Switzerland will never be known for its nightlife, bohemian culture or comedians.”
If that’s the worst that can be said about Switzerland, no wonder it made the top of the happy list!
What Other Countries Ranked Highest for Being Happy?
After Switzerland, the rest of the top 20 are, in descending order beginning with most happy:
- New Zealand
- Costa Rica
- United States
- United Arab Emirates
(In case you’re wondering, the country with the unfortunate “honor” of ranking as least happy is Togo, in West Africa.)
More Photos of Switzerland
All comments are welcome, but we’d especially love to hear from you if you live in Switzerland. What do you think makes your country the happiest in the world? What’s your favorite thing to do or place to go? What is it about your life in Switzerland that makes you so happy? Share the love!
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