Top 20 Happiest Countries in The World
What makes for a happy country? Are you happy?
On a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most satisfied with life, how happy are you?
According to the United Nations General Assembly's latest report, which averaged scores taken between 2010 and 2012, the top 20 happiest nations in the world all scored 7s. It seems no country is perfect and out of 156 countries, more than half rated between 4.0 and 6.0. Most of the wealthier countries did better, but it wasn't just GDP that accounted for the makings of a good life.
Social support often tipped the scales making it clear that a good living only counts for so much; friends, partners and people you can count on provide a network for well-being. This can be a boon or a bust type of feedback loop however, as to be part of such a network requires happiness. No one likes hanging out with a party pooper.
As the authors of the report write, "people who are emotionally happier, who have more satisfying lives, and who live in happier communities, are more likely both now and later to be healthy, productive, and socially connected. These benefits in turn flow more broadly to their families, workplaces, and communities, to the advantage of all."
Denmark topped the list with a score of 7.693 (scores shown above photo). And with a prince like that no doubt this country is having fun!
Everyone needs a sense of humor in life. Besides income and social support, the other key metrics used in the study to judge happiness were healthy life expectancy, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity.
Both Switzerland and Norway increased their national happiness level recently compared to the Gallup World Poll in 2005-2007. In fact, despite still coming in first place, Denmark's happiness on a national basis has fallen 0.233 points.
Seeking perfection can be counter-active to finding happiness. The authors note that, "research does not prescribe extreme bliss but, rather, tentative evidence suggests that a moderate degree of happiness tends to be 'optimal.'"
Practicing healthy life-styles, such as exercising and not smoking, improve overall happiness. Still, even happy people get sick. One of the most influential causes for unhappiness is mental illness, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most common. Countries that address mental health do better to help improve their population's overall happiness level.
Since many mental health diseases, such as schizophrenia, manifest during the teens and early 20s, having programs in schools and workplaces to raise mental-health awareness can help with earlier intervention and treatment.
But the authors report that "even in rich countries, less than a third of people who suffer from mental illness are in receipt of treatment and care."
Who doesn't love a royal wedding?
Having a social network includes government support for foster children. Canada exemplifies their work with residents such as Rosanne Howell shown here.
Many photos depicting national pride and happiness (or dejection in the case of a loss) are seen among sports fans. But contact lenses of your country's flag? Now that's dedication.
Austria provides fun for all ages!
The geothermal Blue Lagoon in Iceland, may add to the nation's happiness factor. With a country the size of Montana, but at a latitude more equivalent to Fairbanks, Alaska, having a naturally heated swimming pool the size of New York's Lincoln Square is definitely something to flip over.
Around the world, the Australians are known for their boisterous and bold flare for life. Here they display vivid colors during a light show in Sydney. But just beyond the land, the ocean is facing significant pressures that are putting the Great Barrier Reef at risk.
It may come as a surprise (or not) that the people in Israel are happier than their neighbors. Let's hope the government takes a cue from their citizens here: make peace not war, and if you must fight use water pistols.
With it's natural beauty, Costa Rica offers its residents abundant cloud and tropical forests and miles of surfing beaches. But crocodiles? Having a annual cultural tradition is a hallmark of a strong social network.
One of the stronger elements of the happiness index is the ability to make life choices. Here, Valerie Adams celebrates her fourth win as a World champion shot putter.
In the United Arab Emirates, many drivers are intentionally getting speeding tickets with the hope that the arresting officers will drive them to the police station in a Bentley or Aston Martin. Now really, when you're happy to get pulled over, what's that say about your country?
While the Latin American countries in the Top 20 happiest nations are not as rich as the others in this list, they make up for it in social networks, healthy life expectancy, and for Costa Rica and Panama, a strong sense of generosity as well as a low perception of corruption.
Mexico on a whole has a strong baseline for the happiness and well-being of its citizens reflecting a perception that what they have makes life enjoyable.
"The ethos of hyper-commercialism has prevailed (in) the United States for around one century. It remains the dominant United States ethos today. Yet there are growing counter-currents, both religious and secular, that insist on social justice, redistribution, ecological sustainability, social capital, and psychological detachment from consumerism," report the authors of the latest global happiness study.
"Hyper-commercialism has failed to lift average US happiness for more than half a century, even as per capita income has tripled. The United States ranks just 17th in happiness, though it has a higher income per capita than the 16 countries ahead of it, with the exception of Norway."
Healthy life expectancies and a tendency toward generosity are some of the strong elements of happiness among the residents of Ireland.
The World Happiness report is published online available here as a pdf.
Wrapping up this list of Top 20 happiest countries of the world is Venezuela, where in 2012 the country paid homage to some of the world's most endangered predators by setting up a 1,440 square miles shark sanctuary in the Caribbean Sea.