The United Nations has released an annual World Happiness Report since 2002, taking into account factors such as social support, freedom, corruption, and life expectancy. The countries frequently considered the happiest consistently rank high in these important areas, offering a supportive community and a healthy work-life balance for their residents. Happy countries also tend to make happy vacation destinations, so you might want to consider one of these places for your next getaway. In honor of International Happiness Day, here are the 10 happiest countries in the world for 2022.
Austria retains its spot in the top 10 in the 2022 rankings of happiest countries and boasts an exceptionally high quality of life. For entertainment and exercise, Austrians can easily head outdoors to enjoy some Alpine hiking and skiing. They can also easily access the rest of Europe using the region’s excellent public transportation network. A strong sense of community and support for the elderly, including financial benefits, have added to the sense of security that most Austrians feel. Add reliable healthcare and a good educational system, and it’s no wonder that Austria reports a higher-than-average level of satisfaction.
The only non-European location to rank among the top 10 happiest countries, New Zealand made headlines in 2019 when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the adoption of a Happiness Index, focusing on the well-being of communities rather than gross domestic product (GDP). All new government spending must address reducing poverty and inequality, improving mental health, or environmental protections. (This focus on people’s well-being also helped strengthen the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.) With their country’s stunning coastlines and countryside, Kiwis are more than happy to make the most of such a beautiful landscape and enjoy an active lifestyle. As the Maori proverb says, “An active person will remain healthy, while a lazy one will become sick.”
The small European duchy of Luxembourg has found itself among the top 10 happiest nations in recent years, and for good reason. Not only is Luxembourg home to one of the three European Capitals of Culture for 2022, but the country has also continued to benefit from a strong economy, even during the recent pandemic. Residents enjoy a higher-than-average level of income, which is complemented by a healthy work-life balance. Furthermore, the excellent air and water quality contribute to a high life expectancy. Luxembourg is often overshadowed by its neighbors — France, Belgium, and Germany — but with its high levels of personal happiness, perhaps it deserves a place on your European travel itinerary.
The Swedes also understand the importance of work-life balance. The custom of fika is more than a coffee break; it is recognized as essential to well-being and productivity — and many workplaces in the country go so far as to mandate it. Other perks enjoyed by Swedish workers include lengthy paid vacations and extended periods of parental leave. Taxes may be high, but they provide a range of benefits, from health care to education. The Swedes even have a word for the responsibility of the state to care for its citizens: The country is considered folkhemmet, or “the people’s home.” Sweden’s progressive policies have paid off in the form of strong community and high life expectancy.
According to the Better Life Index, Norway ranks highest in personal security — 93% of residents say that they feel safe walking alone at night. Also contributing to high levels of happiness are the country’s free higher education, universal health care, low crime, and good work-life balance. Like its Scandinavian neighbors, Norway is hyper-aware of the importance of the environment to one’s well-being. The nation has the world’s highest percentage of electric vehicle sales and an extensive public transportation network. A high level of voter engagement also means that Norwegians feel closely connected to their government and their local community. And even if things seem dull, as the popular Norwegian proverb says, “Behind the clouds, the sky is always blue.”
The Netherlands retains its fifth place in the 2022 rankings, thanks largely to a lifestyle that incorporates healthy habits and a healthy work-life balance. Bicycling and walking are the most common modes of transport in this Northern European nation, ensuring a good amount of exercise and fresh air. Although incomes tend to be lower than in many other neighboring nations, the populace enjoys high rates of education, employment, and good-quality housing. The Netherlands also ranks highly in generosity, with 91% saying that they would have support in time of need. Water quality, life expectancy, and social engagement levels are all above average, resulting in a happy, healthy, and relaxed country.
The high ranking of Nordic nations on the list might just prove that a warm climate isn’t necessary for happiness. The average temperature in Iceland is a brisk 41 degrees Fahrenheit, but perhaps that is part of the nation’s charm. Even though disposable income is lower here than in many other countries listed, strong social support networks result in an overall higher standard of living — 98% of Icelanders say they know they can find help in times of need. Education levels are high, and people feel a strong sense of trust in their government. A rich cultural legacy rooted in the Viking sagas further enhances a sense of tight-knit community in Iceland.
The Swiss people have many reasons to be happy. To name a few: magnificent scenery, a high level of per-capita wealth, and an average life expectancy of 83.7 years. With a shorter-than-average workweek and higher-than-average salaries, Swiss people have the time and the financial means to enjoy life, whether that means winter skiing and fondue or lazy summer days by the lake. Switzerland is also one of the safest countries in the world.
By now, just about everyone is familiar with the concept of hygge, a Danish lifestyle trend that embraces coziness, warmth, and good relationships. This devotion to enjoying the smaller things in life no doubt contributes greatly to the overall sense of happiness in Denmark. The Danes are proud of their Viking heritage but are equally proud of now being one of the most peaceful nations in the world. Taxes are high, but there is a societal pride in taking care of others since it benefits the greater good. Health care and higher education are free, and subsidies are available to support childcare, living costs, and eldercare.
Finland has retained the top spot on the list of happiest countries for five consecutive years, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finns have strong trust in local and national governments and enjoy a high level of social support and excellent public services, including one of the best education systems in the world. Proving that colder temperatures don’t have to be a negative, Finns embrace the outdoors and relish a culture of relaxation, community, and saunas. There are 3 million saunas in this country of 5.5 million people — more saunas per capita than anywhere else in the world. As Finland’s tourism website proclaims, “Happiness — it’s in our nature!”