Written by Elle Pollicott
The World Happiness report was released in March 2014 this year, ranking all countries in the world depending on how ‘happy’ their population was. Whilst happy can be a difficult word to define due to its subjectiveness, the list was determined not only on the nations’ views, but a country’s life expectancy, gross domestic product per capita, social support, freedom with regards to life choices, and corruption. Interested in finding out what the ten happiest countries were in 2014? Read on below... (FYI, the UK came in at 22).
There are many great natural sites to see in Australia, that makes it so popular amongst the Australian’s and travellers alike. The Great Barrier Reef – covering 344,4000 km in area, with 600 islands included in the area – is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and a site on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Couple this with the surf and sun lifestyle, and it’s easy to see why Australians are so happy... perhaps it’s the poisonous spiders that are the only thing stopping this country from featuring higher on the list?
Situated in the Atlantic sea, approximately a three hour flight from London and the rest of Europe, is the happy little island of Iceland. Only 320,000 people live here, with 200,000 living in the greater Reykjavik area, but it’s becoming more of a tourist destination, and it’s not difficult to see why. Natural beauty in the form of geyser’s where you can bathe, to whale watching and even potentially seeing the Northern Lights all are great attractions. Looking into the reasons why Icelandic’s are so happy is the fact that life expectancy is highest in the world for men (with women not far behind), it has the highest ratio of mobile phones to population, and they read the most books than any other population in the world. Plus, whilst those long winter nights may seem dreary, they’ve got the summer to look forward to where the sun never sets!
Austria is well-known for music and culture. The capital Vienna is extremely popular, with Stephansplatz a beautiful area, and the world-famous ‘Cafe Sacher’ cafe for Sacher Torte nearby. However, perhaps what makes the Austrian’s so happy is their easy-going, relaxed nature (some would say different to their German neighbours!). Futhermore, according to the OECD Better Life Index, Austria’s average household salary is almost $6,000 more than the world average, at $29,256; and 73% of 15-64 year olds have paid jobs, but work less hours than average. So whilst money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, there clearly is a link.
The second Scandinavian country to feature on this list, Finland is an interesting place to visit, as it combines Scandinavia with Russian influences. Despite previously being known as having the highest suicide rates in Europe, Finland is actually the 7th happiest country in the world. In addition to their love of saunas and metal bands, the Finn’s get many perks... 36 days of holiday a year, free tuition fees and a monthly sum of €100 euros to parents until their child turns 17. Not to mention, Finland has recently been declared as having the best education in the world, despite children not starting school until they’re seven, with no inspections, league tables or exams until they’re 16!
Our second (and final) non-European country to make it on the list is Canada... home to the (allegedly) maple syrup-smelling notes (and if that doesn’t put a smile on your face, what will?!). Large cities aside (including Vancouver, where you can cross the border and visit Seattle in a couple of hours if you wish); the Banff National Park in the Rockies is a must-see: it’s Canada’s oldest national park (founded in 1885) and can be discovered on skis. On average, Canadian’s scored themselves 7.4/10 for being happy, and with higher income and higher life expectancy than neighbouring American’s, not to mention a relatively physically healthy population who believe they live in a strong community; it’s clear to see Canada deserved its position as the sixth happiest country in the world.
Ahh, Sweden... one of my favourite countries in the world, has made it in fifth place (and to be honest, if you were Swedish, why wouldn’t you be happy?!). Quality of life is extremely high in Sweden, with free tuition costs, and maternity and paternity leave of up to one year. Stockholm’s – the capital – Gamla Stan (Old Town) is one of the largest medieval towns in Europe, and a huge tourist attraction; and one metro stop away is hipster Södermalm, perfect for a night out! Gothenburg is another beautiful city in Sweden, with excellent shopping and the large Slottskogen – perfect for sunbathing and seeing Scandinavian animals. Finally, Malmö is worth visiting, with the sandy Ribersborgsstranden, where you can see the famous Örebro bridge, connecting Malmö to Copenhagen, Denmark.
4. The Netherlands
Not only did the Netherlands place as the fourth happiest place in the world, but Dutch children have been ranked the happiest in the world. Perhaps it is this start in life which has seen the Dutch population rank so high – relationships between parents and children are open and communicative, with mum’s taking longer time off work than in the UK to raise their children. Of course, the Netherlands is also a very liberal country, which is probably why so many tourists flock to the capital Amsterdam.
Heading into the top three happiest countries in the world is Switzerland, home to the Alps, watches and cheese. So what makes this country so happy? Well, according to the World Economic Forum report, Switzerland invests more capital in the health, education and talent of its people than any other country in the world. As a result, Switzerland has the eighth lowest depression rates in the world, and scored 64/122 in terms of stress levels. Switzerland is a popular country for tourists who want to go skiing, but the beautiful cities of Geneva, Bern and Zurich are also worth a visit too, with good shopping, restaurants and bars.
Coming in at number 2 is Norway, and it is an absolutely beautiful country, so understandable why it has scored so highly. Oslo is a great starting point, with Aker Brygge a nice place to sit in the sun, and Karl Johan’s Gate for shopping. With breathtaking scenery including the fjords, which can be toured from most coastal towns, Norway enjoys many tourists. Bergen, on the West Coast is particularly popular, with its picturesque harbour and painted wooden buildings; and Trondheim (7 hours north of Oslo) is not to be underestimated, for a true feeling of how Norwegian’s live. The fact they have the second lowest working hours in Europe (after the Netherlands) is sure to make the Norwegians happy, as well as claiming the highest salaries in Europe, and having the second highest spending on healthcare. Visiting Norway, you will see how content the people are – they’re proud of their country but don’t need to boast: see for yourself just why Norway is the second happiest country in the world.
... And so the title of the world’s happiest country in the world remains firmly in Scandinavia, with Denmark in first place! The Danes claim their happiness is down to ‘hygge’ – a word that loosely translates to ‘cosiness’ in the sense of intimacy, community and contentment with family and friends. Copenhagen is a beautiful city, with an abundance of shops on Strøget, pretty Nyhavn with its coloured buildings; and Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. For a true Danish experience, you can now ‘Dine with the Danes’ – basically, this organisation matches up tourists with Danish families to enjoy a proper Danish meal and ‘hygge’!