The World's Happiest Countries

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Most of the nations atop our list are democratic, business-friendly, and boast strong social safety nets.
By Christopher Helman
Norway: the world's happiest country



Think about it for a minute: What does happiness mean to you?

For most, being happy starts with having enough money to do what you want and buy what you want. A nice home, food, clothes, car, leisure. All within reason.



The Top 5 Happiest countries in the World

1. Norway

2. Denmark

3. Finland

4. Australia

5. New Zealand

But happiness is much more than money. It's being healthy, free from pain, being able to take care of yourself. It's having good times with friends and family.

Furthermore, happiness means being able to speak what's on your mind without fear, to worship the God of your choosing, and to feel safe and secure in your own home.

Happiness means having opportunity--to get an education, to be an entrepreneur. What's more satisfying than having a big idea and turning it into a thriving business, knowing all the way that the harder you work, the more reward you can expect?

With this in mind, five years ago researchers at the Legatum Institute, a London-based nonpartisan think tank, set out to rank the happiest countries in the world. But because "happy" carries too much of a touchy-feely connotation, they call it "prosperity."

Legatum recently completed its 2010 Prosperity Index, which ranks 110 countries, covering 90% of the world's population.

To build its index Legatum gathers upward of a dozen international surveys done by the likes of the Gallup polling group, the Heritage Foundation and the World Economic Forum. Each country is ranked on 89 variables sorted into eight subsections: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

The core conceit: Prosperity is complex; achieving it relies on a confluence of factors that build on each other in a virtuous circle.

Ultimately how happy you are depends on how happy you've been. If you're already rich, like Scandinavia, then more freedom, security and health would add the most to happiness. For the likes of China and India (ranked 88th), it's more a case of "show me the money." What they want most of all? The opportunity to prove to themselves that money doesn't buy happiness.

New Zealanders enjoy high levels of social cohesion and a first-place ranking in education.
New Zealanders enjoy very high levels of social cohesion and a first-place ranking in education.

No. 5: New Zealand

With very high levels of social cohesion and a first-place ranking in education, New Zealanders trust and help each other. The country ranks first in civil liberties. Ninety-four percent found the beauty of their physical environment satisfying (the other 6% must be blind).

Citizens of Australia trust their government.

No. 4: Australia

Excellent education, strong personal freedoms, a tight-knit society. Australia's economy is strong, led by raw materials exports, but it's also a good place to start a business, with plentiful Internet connectivity and low startup costs. Aussies trust their government.

Low business startup costs give the Finns economic strength.
Low business startup costs give the Finns economic strength.

No. 3: Finland

Excellent education, universal health care, plentiful personal freedoms, trusted government, peaceful. Lots of R&D and low business startup costs give the Finns economic strength. But as is to be expected in a country with the highest redistribution of wealth, only 75% of Finns believe working hard will help them get ahead.

Denmark reports the highest standard of living in the world.
Denmark reports the highest standard of living in the world.

No. 2: Denmark

The world's lowest business startup costs, excellent education, unrestricted civil freedoms. Danes have overwhelming faith in their government and in each other, and report the highest standard of living in the world.

In Norway, an unparalleled 74% say other people can be trusted.
In Norway, an unparalleled 74% say other people can be trusted.

No. 1: Norway

The world's highest per-capita GDP at $53,000 a year. Spending on health care is second-highest after the U.S. An unparalleled 74% of Norwegians say other people can be trusted, 94% are happy with the beauty of their environment, and a very high 93% believe hard work will help them get ahead in life. Having a lot of oil and gas reserves helps.

appiness
Table: The World's Happiest Countries
Francesca Levy, 07.14.10, 05:00 PM EDT
By and large, rich countries are happier--and that's no coincidence.

Quantifying happiness isn't an easy task. Researchers at the Gallup World Poll went about it by surveying thousands of respondents in 155 countries, between 2005 and 2009, in order to measure two types of well-being.

First they asked subjects to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives, and ranked their answers using a "life evaluation" score from 1 to 10. Then they asked questions about how each subject had felt the previous day. Those answers allowed researchers to score their "daily experiences"--things like whether they felt well-rested, respected, free of pain and intellectually engaged. Subjects that reported high scores were considered "thriving." The percentage of thriving individuals in each country determined our rankings. Click here for the full story.
Rank
(by % Thriving) Country Region Percent
Thriving Percent
Struggling Percent
Suffering Daily
Experience
1 Denmark Europe 82 17 1 7.9
2 Finland Europe 75 23 2 7.8
3 Norway Europe 69 31 0 7.9
4 Sweden Europe 68 30 2 7.9
4 Netherlands Europe 68 32 1 7.7
6 Costa Rica Americas 63 35 2 8.1
6 New Zealand Asia 63 35 2 7.6
8 Canada Americas 62 36 2 7.6
8 Israel Asia 62 35 3 6.4
8 Australia Asia 62 35 3 7.5
8 Switzerland Europe 62 36 2 7.6
12 Panama Americas 58 39 3 8.4
12 Brazil Americas 58 40 2 7.5
14 United States Americas 57 40 3 7.3
14 Austria Europe 57 40 3 7.7
16 Belgium Europe 56 41 3 7.3
17 United Kingdom Europe 54 44 2 7.4
18 Mexico Americas 52 43 5 7.7
18 Turkmenistan Asia 52 47 1 7.5
20 United Arab Emirates Asia 51 48 1 7.7
21 Venezuela Americas 50 48 2 8.0
22 Ireland Europe 49 49 2 7.5
23 Puerto Rico Americas 47 45 8 7.6
23 Kuwait Asia 47 50 3 7.0
23 Iceland Europe 47 49 4 8.2
26 Colombia Americas 46 47 7 7.7
26 Jamaica Americas 46 49 5 7.7
28 Cyprus Asia 45 50 5 6.6
28 Luxembourg Europe 45 54 1 7.3
30 Trinidad and Tobago Americas 44 51 5 7.9
30 Argentina Americas 44 50 6 7.8
30 Belize Americas 44 50 6 6.8
33 Germany Europe 43 50 7 7.4
34 El Salvador Americas 42 51 7 7.7
35 Chile Americas 41 52 7 7.3
35 Uruguay Americas 41 54 5 7.5
35 Qatar Asia 41 58 1 6.8
38 Guatemala Americas 40 50 10 7.7
38 Malta Europe 40 48 12 6.6
40 Czech Republic Europe 39 51 9 6.6
40 Italy Europe 39 54 7 7.1
42 Honduras Americas 37 49 14 7.5
43 Spain Europe 36 58 6 7.0
44 Dominican Republic Americas 35 54 11 7.3
44 France Europe 35 60 6 7.0
46 Bolivia Americas 34 59 7 7.0
46 Ecuador Americas 34 52 15 7.6
48 Paraguay Americas 32 59 9 8.3
48 Bahrain Asia 32 45 23 7.0
50 Guyana Americas 31 64 5 7.0
50 Greece Europe 31 57 11 7.0
52 Nicaragua Americas 30 53 17 7.4
52 Jordan Asia 30 61 8 6.7
54 Belarus Europe 29 59 12 6.5
54 Kosovo Europe 29 65 6 6.2
56 South Korea Asia 28 61 12 6.9
56 Poland Europe 28 61 10 7.1
58 Saudi Arabia Asia 27 69 3 6.7
58 Pakistan Asia 27 50 23 6.2
58 Slovenia Europe 27 57 16 6.8
61 Croatia Europe 26 60 14 6.2
61 Montenegro Europe 26 58 16 6.2
63 Malawi Africa 25 64 10 8.0
63 Peru Americas 25 65 11 7.2
63 Moldova Europe 25 62 13 6.1
63 Lithuania Europe 25 57 18 6.2
67 Libya* Africa 24 68 8 6.0
67 Botswana Africa 24 65 11 7.3
67 Cuba* Americas 24 66 11 6.7
70 Kazakhstan Asia 22 72 6 7.2
70 Taiwan Asia 22 64 14 7.5
70 Portugal Europe 22 61 17 7.1
73 South Africa Africa 21 71 8 7.3
73 Lebanon Asia 21 64 15 6.3
73 Russia Europe 21 57 22 7.0
73 Ukraine Europe 21 53 26 6.6
73 Romania Europe 21 56 23 6.6
73 Slovakia Europe 21 60 19 6.5
79 Thailand Asia 20 75 5 8.0
79 Bosnia and Herzegovina Europe 20 59 20 6.2
81 Iran Asia 19 66 14 6.3
81 Hong Kong Asia 19 65 16 7.1
81 Singapore Asia 19 75 6 6.9
81 Japan Asia 19 69 12 7.4
85 Somaliland Africa 18 77 5 7.1
85 Algeria Africa 18 77 6 6.7
85 Nigeria Africa 18 78 4 7.3
85 Uzbekistan Asia 18 75 6 7.8
85 Indonesia Asia 18 72 10 8.2
90 Estonia Europe 17 62 21 6.8
91 Myanmar* Asia 16 82 2 7.1
91 Bangladesh Asia 16 71 13 6.9
91 Serbia Europe 16 63 21 6.2
94 Malaysia Asia 15 80 5 8.1
94 Philippines Asia 15 68 18 7.2
96 Cameroon Africa 14 77 9 7.0
96 Tunisia Africa 14 77 9 6.8
96 Zambia Africa 14 78 8 7.6
96 Yemen Asia 14 62 24 6.3
96 Vietnam Asia 14 76 10 6.9
96 Palestinian Territories Asia 14 70 15 5.8
96 Macedonia Europe 14 54 32 6.8
103 Turkey Asia 13 67 20 6.0
103 Kyrgyzstan Asia 13 81 7 7.3
103 Azerbaijan Asia 13 70 17 6.6
103 Hungary Europe 13 53 34 6.9
103 Albania Europe 13 67 19 5.6
108 Central African Republic Africa 12 75 13 6.4
108 Ethiopia Africa 12 67 21 6.4
110 Namibia Africa 11 79 10 8.1
110 Angola Africa 11 81 8 6.8
110 Armenia Asia 11 55 33 5.9
110 Iraq Asia 11 71 18 5.2
110 Latvia Europe 11 64 25 6.5
115 Mozambique Africa 10 78 11 7.2
115 Egypt Africa 10 71 19 6.1
115 Mauritania Africa 10 83 7 7.2
115 Zimbabwe Africa 10 73 17 7.3
115 Morocco Africa 10 80 10 7.0
115 Sri Lanka Asia 10 66 24 6.9
115 India Asia 10 69 21 6.9
115 Syria Asia 10 66 24 6.8
115 Georgia Asia 10 56 35 6.2
115 Afghanistan Asia 10 69 21 6.2
125 Kenya Africa 9 78 13 7.5
125 Ghana Africa 9 83 8 7.5
125 China Asia 9 77 14 7.6
128 Congo (Brazzaville) Africa 8 73 20 6.9
128 Guinea Africa 8 89 3 7.1
130 Sudan Africa 7 81 12 7.4
130 Djibouti Africa 7 86 8 7.5
130 Madagascar Africa 7 84 10 7.0
130 Nepal Asia 7 82 11 7.4
130 Mongolia Asia 7 81 12 7.0
130 Laos Asia 7 89 4 7.1
130 Tajikistan Asia 7 74 19 6.5
137 Uganda Africa 6 71 23 6.8
137 Tanzania Africa 6 70 24 7.5
137 Senegal Africa 6 88 6 7.3
137 Bulgaria Europe 6 58 36 6.5
141 Chad Africa 5 88 7 7.1
141 Liberia Africa 5 90 5 6.7
141 Mali Africa 5 77 18 8.0
144 Ivory Coast Africa 4 84 12 7.2
144 Congo (Kinshasa) Africa 4 85 11 6.4
144 Benin Africa 4 80 16 6.7
144 Haiti Americas 4 60 35 6.2
148 Niger Africa 3 86 11 7.9
148 Rwanda Africa 3 75 22 7.8
148 Burkina Faso Africa 3 71 26 6.5
148 Sierra Leone Africa 3 74 23 6.3
148 Cambodia Asia 3 75 22 7.6
153 Comoros Africa 2 75 23 7.7
153 Burundi Africa 2 58 40 7.5
155 Togo Africa 1 67 31 5.0

www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/world-happiest-countries-lifestyle

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