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The Top 5 “Happiest” Countries in the World and Their Characteristics

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Throughout the past few years, it’s no secret that the world has experienced some anxiety and uncertainty. Citizens are trying to stay strong despite the election, ongoing pandemic, or war in Ukraine. However, in spite of these trailing occurrences, some countries are managing to stay afloat.

Beginning in 2012, the “world happiness report” went underway to document the most optimistic countries around the globe. Going into its tenth year, the report ranks each country on a scale from zero to ten. What characteristics do the “happiest” countries have? How do they manage to keep up citizen morale? We’ll find out!

10. New Zealand (7.2/10)

New Zealand, the 10th happiest country in the world.
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Founded in the year 1840 by a group of British explorers, New Zealand was one of the most recently populated countries overall. After gaining independence from Britain in 1947, the population increased tremendously. Tourists from Europe and America made their way over, liking it so much, that many decided to stay.

One characteristic many citizens can agree on is the landscape. Towering mountainscapes, lush vegetation, and crystal clear waters. The overall mid-tropic climate attracts many, with hot summers and “not too cold” winters. With over 30% of the land being a national reserve, citizens are able to reap the benefits of their beautiful country. 

Apart from the breathtaking scenery, many tourists mention the country’s wonderful people. Citizens are known for their genuine and warm attitude. In spite of blaming it on their true nature, individuals give credit to the fantastic work-life balance. Consisting of the first 8-hour work day, many find time to put in great effort to work, while also finding time to relax.

Overall, individuals find New Zealand a progressive place to live. Funnily enough, this country was the first to provide women with the right to vote. With 10 languages spoken and the first transgender MP, everyone can find a home here.

9. Israel (7.364/10)

Israel, the ninth happiest country in the world.
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Although this ancient land has been around since B.C.E., it was quite recently since the ninth county was established. Founded in 1948 by the head of the Jewish Agency, the Holy State has drawn in those from around the world to take in its splendor. With several civilizations coming and going, there’s no doubt about the sense of belonging created here.

As mentioned in other countries, Israel is known for its incredible scenery. Not only found in the rolling green hills but in the ancient architecture as well. Being a smaller country in size, the streets are packed with towering temples and unique structures. Despite the seemingly crowded atmosphere, citizens agree the consistently warm temperature is comfortable to live in. With little rain and snowfall per year, Israeli individuals find peace.

A unique feature of this country is, intriguingly, its armed forces. The Israel Defense Force (IDF), founded just after their independence, consists of mixed genders. According to Israel, many around the world look up to the IDF as the standard for the armed forces. Rescuing their citizens from natural disasters and inspiring young ones, many recruits consider it to be a worthwhile experience.

With life expectancy reaching a high of 82 years old, many citizens have found a keen interest in education. In Israel, universities experienced the highest graduation rate among those around the globe. As well as graduates, the country also pumps out aspiring inventors. It became home to the first ingestible video camera, voicemail technology, and even cherry tomatoes.

8. Norway (7.365/10)

Norway, the eighth happiest country in the world.
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Gaining independence in 1814, this Scandinavian country is one of the better-known happiest places to live. With overwhelming sights, enriched culture, and fascinating history, Norway is known for having a high standard of living. But what gave them this reputation?

Containing significantly large national parks, Noway is home to a diverse range of natural qualities. Among these include deep-blue fjords, icy glaciers, and lush valleys. This country is also home to the largest herd of reindeer! Every year, tourists and citizens alike take in the scenery as much as possible.

Since its independence decades ago, Norway (or “Noreg” in Norwegian,) has always had an extremely rich economy. Known for giving their citizens a higher wage than those in America, the purchasing power is much higher. Putting funds towards education systems and social security. This, of course, boosts the economy. Because of their lower population per capita, the unemployment rate is very low. 

While remaining conscientious of its people, this country also attends to the environment. Although much of its economy is powered by gas and oil exports, the country itself is not. In spite of their wish to go carbon neutral by 2030, 98% of power comes from hydroelectric emissions.

7. Sweden (7.384/10)

Sweden, the seventh happiest country in the world.
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One of the oldest countries established, Sweden was founded back in 1523, and was signified by the crowning of King Gustav Vasa. Sharing a reputation of happiness with the previous country, Norway, after some research, there’s no mistaking why. 

With 53% of its land containing forests, citizens and tourists spend vacations in wonder. With snowy mountaintops, sophisticated cities, and northern light displays, Sweden is one of the most visited countries for skiing. Along with countries like Denmark and Norway, it is home to many lodges. This has been known to increase employment.

As well as having other amiable qualities, they are known for little waste production. With 99% of waste recycled, Sweden has very few landfills, opening up land for civilians. Less space for garbage opens up a diverse range of plant life, increasing oxygen production country-wide. 

Apart from the lush landscapes, what else could make people so happy? The answer lies in their health. In Sweden, healthcare is universally free for individuals under twenty. However, the maximum charge is 1,000kr (120 U.S. dollars,) any repeated visits following this are free. Although it shouldn’t be, this is a rare feature to have. 

Along with healthcare, education is something Sweden loves to provide for its citizens. Despite it not being completely free, native and European students graduate with a maximum of $19K, significantly lower than that of the United States. This results in a greater number of graduates in Sweden.

Overall, the most fascinating aspect of this country is their work life. Those in employment in Sweden are guaranteed great things. From year-round paid vacations to nearly 500 days of paid maternity leave for both parents. According to studies, those in their first year take up to five paid vacations and still maintain a great work relationship. Many citizens describe the work as “fast-paced,” with promotions being a common occurrence.

6. Luxembourg (7.404/10)

Luxembourg, the sixth happiest country in the world.
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Following the French Revolution, Luxembourg was established as a Grand Duchy in 1815. A small, land-locked country bordering Belgium, many aren’t aware of its great qualities. Located in the very heart of Europe, many visit to encounter a rarity of opportunities. Once you’re there, you could visit up to three countries in one day!

In spite of the consistently gray skies, many find the atmosphere delightful. With a great community of city life, many are thankful you’re never too far from the countryside. Throughout Luxembourg, there are many green-filled parks set aside for citizens and tourists alike. The cities are known for cleanliness, with citizens taking great care to keep waste off the streets. 

With a myriad of employment opportunities, many travel to work on foot. Luxembourg, according to the police force, is a very secure city with a low crime rate. However, if you’re worried about petty crimes, many opt to use public transportation. Universally free, trollies, buses, and cabs are offered to individuals who could be low on funds. With a diversely attractive job offering, the employment rate is quite low.

5. The Netherlands (7.415/10)

The Netherlands, the fifth happiest country in the world.
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Previously known as “Low Franconian”, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established in 1814. After many years under their reign, a small group of rebels began the Eighty Years’ War against Spanish rule. Finally, in 1581, they left to join the Dutch Republic. Welcoming millions of tourists every year, it is considered one of the best places for non-native speakers.

Stretching alongside the North Sea, the Netherlands is known for its flat terrain. Though this may sound bland, in actuality, this is what makes it so unique. Much of the sandy beaches and coastal farmland are located below sea level. Along with the lush, grassy hills, they have a grand city life. One of the most famous museums located in Anne Frank’s home is located in Holland.

For citizens, the overall well-being has risen to an all-time high. In spite of occurrences such as the pandemic, the Dutch morals haven’t seemed to dip. Along with countries like Sweden and Norway, much of this moral comes from an amiable work-life balance. Providing a great amount of social and mental support, many companies have a great workforce. Employees can also rely on good health care coverage, long maternity leave, and eight-hour work weeks.

While many adults have an enjoyable experience in the Netherlands, their children can find benefits too. Surrounded by splendid scenery, cycling, flowers, and great cheese, anyone would be happy to grow up there. However, these aren’t the only reasons. With extremely affordable child healthcare, many children are able to receive the care they need early on, increasing the life expectancy rate as well. 

Education is encouraged here as well. Apart from the student’s willingness to learn, the wage for educators is much higher. This results in a fantastic quality of learning and an educational system. According to the Dutch Review, 42% of young adults receive their university degree by age 25.

4. Switzerland (7.512/10)

Switzerland, the fourth happiest country in the world.
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Ah, yes, one of the most well-known happy countries in the world. Established in 1291 by the Confoederatio Helvetica (or Swiss Confederation), Switzerland is one of the only old-world countries on the list. Having a reputation for neutrality and peace, it’s no wonder many have counted themselves lucky to live there.

From towering mountaintops in the Alps to lush plateaus, individuals can find ancient homes with splendid views. Apart from their branded watches and mouthwatering chocolate, the inviting community is a great reason for citizens to remain there. According to BRIGHT Magazine, the idyllic image associated with Switzerland is very accurate. 

Generous dedication to healthcare for citizens is the top priority. Although the government pays little funds toward healthcare, it is provided universally for all citizens. Swiss medical facilities keep a tight regime, with low wait times and a clean environment. The welfare system provided there is equally as generous, covering much of the basic costs of living there. This includes housing, transportation, and insurance.

An interesting factor that increases morale lies in the armed forces. In Switzerland, all male citizens ages 18-34 must participate in up to eighteen weeks of military training. Although to a foreigner this may seem like an inconvenience, civilians would disagree. According to many who’ve participated, you are exposed to many of the world’s issues at a young age. This seems to create a real sense of belonging, letting reality set in and show you are a part of something bigger than yourself.

3. Iceland (7.557/10)

Iceland, the third happiest country in the world.
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Discovered by Norwegian Vikings in the year 861, Iceland (or “Snowland”) is the oldest land on this list. In spite of the country’s age, people stand the test of time. Following four years of German siege, Iceland gained its independence in June of 1944. 

Despite the country’s outwardly cold exterior, many can report the warmness that lies in its people. Although the country itself is quite small, this is considered a benefit to its citizens. As the least populated country in Europe with 350,000 people, 99% of individuals have reported a real sense of companionship here. This dates back to survival tactics used by their ancestors. Because living conditions were cold and harsh, it’s instinctual to nurture one another. To stick together in troubling times despite modern-day advances.

Because of their tight-knit community, Icelanders experience equality in all ways. Between men and women, there is no divide in the workplace. With nine months of maternity leave paid to each parent, Iceland declared it illegal to give different wages depending on gender. Judgment is said to be minimal here. Women have babies at a younger age and instead of having shame, they have support. Although the divorce rate is quite high, leaving a rocky marriage is seen as fortune, not failure. 

Supplied with a great amount of support, many people even work more than one job at a time. Not because they need to, but simply ‘cause they have the time! With a healthy government truly invested in its people, Iceland has some of the most driven citizens in the world.

2. Denmark (7.636/10)

Denmark, the second happiest country in the world.
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Uncovered as early as the 8th century, the Danes have been living a happy life for quite some time. Shaped by massive glaciers formed in the Ice Age, this territory is one of the oldest known to mankind. Surrounded by lagoons, gulfs, and grassy hills, Denmark has been welcoming people for centuries.

According to the World Happiness Report, much of Danish happiness comes from a collective feeling of responsibility in their people. Not only for equality and education but for social welfare. In spite of taxes reaching an all-time high, citizens are always willing to pay knowing what they have. 

For its citizens, healthcare is universally covered. This, of course, reduced much of the stress caused in other countries. Instead of racking up debts from medical bills, patients pay no fees. Education is supported as well, students don’t pay tuition. Instead, they receive funds for their studies. Childcare is subsidized, with parental support given to those who need it.

In short, what seems to make Denmark so great is truly its people. Everyone has a common goal; to pay their fair share. For many, there is a belief in paying for the common good. Money isn’t stressed as a necessity, but as a benefit for all. 

1. Finland (7.881/10)

Finland, the number one happiest country in the world.
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Finally, the number one ranked country for five years running. Declaring independence from Russia in 1917, it’s still quite a young country. Out of the 149 countries researched every year, many aren’t surprised Finland has remained at the top. Full to the brim with crystal clear lakes and mounds of trees. A natural beauty to behold, millions of tourists are attracted every year to take in its wonder.

In spite of cold weather and half a year’s worth of winter, the Finnish feel quite content with their way of life. Described as a stress-free lifestyle, many spend their time outside of work and school outdoors. Cycling, jogging, hiking, you name it. With one of the lowest rates of pollution in the world, many find nature to be great company. 

According to the World Happiness Report, what makes the Finnish so warm is their “focus on co-operation and not competition.” Interestingly enough, one of the unique attributes of their lifestyle is a lack of crime. Many citizens reported how safe they felt, day and night. This could be due to the little poverty individuals experience. With a large middle class, there aren’t many caught flaunting wealth. 

However, Finland is like many other countries on this list. In terms of healthcare, everyone has access to it regardless of yearly earnings or insurance. The same can be said with education. This shows that, in spite of the inevitable class system, everyone can have access to the very best. 


In Conclusion

The global unisphere.
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In short, the government did something smart when creating the World Happiness Report. Since its creation a decade ago, many countries that didn’t make the top ten are beginning to change their ways. Focusing more on their people and economies, many are trying to work through the current times. 

Well, it seems that European countries like the ones we’ve mentioned are doing it right. Other countries not mentioned can only hope to raise the morale of their people, even through these stressful times!

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