Denmark loses happiness top spot to Norway

Norway fjord

It’s official: Nordic countries are the happiest nations in the world, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report 2017. Is it something in their water? Do they “like” more inspirational quotes on social media than the rest of us? Apparently not.

Norway is the world’s cheeriest, ahead of Denmark (Danes may or may not be happy to lose their contentment crown, but I’m sure they can cope-nhagen), a country famous in recent years for its hygge. In third and fourth are Iceland and Switzerland, respectively. All four ranked favourably on caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

Notably, fourth-ranked Switzerland also produced three top 10 cities in the latest Mercer Quality of Living survey: Zurich, Basel and Geneva. You really can’t go wrong if you move to the Alps. Ok, the high cost of living perhaps.

The report explains that the other countries making up the top 10 scored well in income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust:

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

The report, ranking 155 countries by their happiness levels, was released to mark the International Day of Happiness on 20 March, inconveniently falling on a Monday this year.

Inconvenient, because the report states that work is a major factor affecting happiness, whether it’s caused by unemployment or the quality of work while employed. Among other conclusions, the report reveals that work-life balance makes for happier workers:

Work-life balance comes out…as perhaps the strongest workplace driver of an individual’s subjective wellbeing. This turns out to be true across the board, in terms of people’s life and job satisfaction, general happiness, and moment-to-moment emotional experiences.

Location independent workers will be satisfied knowing that autonomy is also an important factor:

individual autonomy in the workplace is a significant driver of happiness: having control over how the workday is organized as well as the pace at which the employee works is positively correlated with higher wellbeing outcomes.

The report was published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and supported by a grant from the Ernesto Illy Foundation. I’m smiling as I write this, as coffee definitely raises my happiness levels…

5 articles on searching for happiness

As we enter sleepy mid-August and once more contemplate the meaning of well, everything, from the beach, the all-important topic of “happiness” has re-emerged. Here’s a selection of the best happiness pieces published in recent weeks:

Swiss bliss: Happiest nations in the world named

Perhaps you are reading this by the pool with your mates, totally blissed out. You might be thinking “I wish it were like this all the time.” You might also be thinking where can I be happy like this all the time? In other words, which is the happiest nation anywhere on the planet, where people are just…you know…happy?

I can tell you it’s not Malaysia, where I’m presently writing these words, perhaps many people’s notion of “paradise”. There are extraordinarily beautiful beaches, stunning grub available 24/7 and a laid-back lifestyle, and yet there are also visible tensions.

It’s not southern neighbour Singapore, either, a highly developed and educated country in contrast. Friends in the city-state, famous for its competitive kiasu mindset, complain about the cost of housing and work-related stress.

There are grumbles in the UK meanwhile, with not even London escaping criticism.

The number 1 result, according to the latest World Happiness Report, might surprise some. Switzerland, a country more famous for its cuckoo clocks and Roger Federer, is on top of the world:

Northern countries do extremely well, with Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland and Sweden taking 6 of the top 10 spots.

Do you agree with the survey findings? Are you itching to move on? And what does happiness mean to you anyway? Comments please!