When asked to name the happiest place on Earth, many people say "Disney World" without hesitation. For the past five years, however, the United Nations has gone to great lengths to figure out the true answer to that question. According to the UN, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of all public policy.
First published in 2012, The World Happiness Report is a survey of global happiness distributed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The 2017 edition, which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels, is based on the Gallup World Poll and nationally representative samples from 2014 to 2016. The six categories contributing to the ranking were GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make choices, generosity, and perceptions of corruption.
"The World Happiness Report continues to draw global attention around the need to create sound policy for what matters most to people — their well-being," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and co-editor of the report. Although has Denmark held the top spot for three out of the last four years, a new winner has been crowned for 2017. Read on to find out which country took the top spot among the 50 happiest countries in the world.
Home to a couple of the best all-inclusive resorts in the world, Belize sneaks into the top 50 this year, moving up two slots from last year’s happiness report. The country scored highest in social support, followed by GDP per capita. Belizeans are known for maintaining a positive outlook when challenged, and this year’s findings reflect that.
Like Belize, Russia’s highest scores also came from social support and GDP per capita. Although Russia’s economy is quite small, that doesn’t mean Russians aren’t happy with the growth they’ve had, as seen in the happiness report.
Slowly climbing the ladder, Italy pops up two spots to remain in the top 50 happiest countries. Known for its delicious cuisine, amazing history, and beautiful countryside, this European country is somewhere we'd definitely consider living — and we hear they're giving away castles too!
The happiest of all the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Uzbekistan jumped two places despite the overall happiness score dropping slightly this year. Strong social support pulled through for the win.
Poland moved up a whopping 11 spots since last year! That's the highest increase of all the happy countries in the top 50.
Coming in one spot higher this year, El Salvador scored the best in GDP per capita. It makes sense, since GDP in El Salvador reached an all-time high in 2016.
Welcome to the top 50, Ecuador! Jumping seven spots on the list, Ecuador enters the top 50 thanks to decent scores in GDP per capital, social support, and healthy life expectancy.
A slight increase from last year’s score brings Nicaragua up five spots to No. 43. A decent score in each of the categories used to determine scores didn’t hurt, either.
Malaysia also gets a five-spot bump! Moving up to No. 47, the Southeast Asian country narrowly edged out Nicaragua in GDP per capita and generosity to stay ahead one slot.
A minor decrease in overall happiness didn’t negatively affect Bahrain’s place in the top 50. In fact, Bahrain is one spot closer to the top compared to last year. Bahrain's capital, Manama, is also one of the safest cities in the world.
Since the early years of the World Happiness Report, Slovakia has steadily climbed its way up to a coveted spot in the top 50. The only way to go from here is up!
Kuwait may be No. 39 on the list, but it’s the fifth happiest among countries in the Middle East. This comes with a minor decrease in overall happiness, but a solid score in GDP per capita helped a lot.
Home to some of the best street food in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago’s overall happiness remained the same. The country comes up five spots, however, thanks to positive changes in other categories.
Saudi Arabia is the first country on this list to have fallen several spots since last year — three, to be exact. Despite the fall, the country still boasts one of the higher GDP per capita scores. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital, also made it to the list of the safest cities in the world.
The biggest decrease so far comes from Colombia, which has fallen five spots to No. 36. Despite having been plagued by poverty and violence for decades, strong social relationships make for happy lives here. Perhaps it has something to do with their fantastic coffee as well.
Qatar regained its position as the third happiest country in the Middle East, moving up just one spot. It now places two spots ahead of Saudi Arabia, whereas last year it was two spots behind.
Things were looking up for Spain this past year. An improving economy and increasing social support helped the country jump three places on the happiness index. The nation's future remains to be seen, however, considering the recent situation regarding Catalonian independence.
Among Southeast Asian nations, Taiwan finished behind only Singapore in (No. 26) and Thailand (No. 32). Home to the best ramen in the world, the country's favorable scores in each category helped it keep up with Thailand as both moved up the happiness index this year.
Right ahead of Taiwan, Thailand is the second happiest country in Southeast Asia. Government spokesman Lieutenant General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said that “Thai people should take pride in the improvement of Thailand’s ranking and join hands in creating a favorable atmosphere to move the country forward.”
Over the past year, France saw a small decrease in overall happiness. Decent scores across the board, however, especially GPD per capita and social support, helped the country climb one spot this year.
Panama dropped five slots from last year. However, a pretty good score on the healthy life expectancy scale, especially when compared to most other countries on the list, keeps the Central Americn nation in the top 30.
The second best jump on the list belongs to Guatemala. Guatemala has seen small increases in GDP per capita and social support over the past year, leading it to rise an impressive ten spots.
What Uruguay lacks in numbers globally, the country makes up for in happiness. Edging out Guatemala in nearly every category puts Uruguay in the top five happiest Latin American countries of the World Happiness Report.
With an increasing GDP per capita and social support, Malta has become more and more popular with foreign travelers who want make their stays on a beautiful island permanent. Gaining three positions on the world happiness index, Malta’s growing economy only adds to its Mediterranean appeal.
Despite dropping four slots this year, Singapore is the happiest country in Southeast Asia. Perhaps it’s because Singapore scored the absolute best when it comes to a healthy life expectancy.
Mexicans are not as happy as they were last year, slipping four spots on the happiness index. However, thanks to the establishment of universal healthcare in 2012, as well as a host of other steps taken to improve the country’s health over the years, Mexico is one of the healthier and happier countries on the list.
Argentina may be positioned on the southern side of Latin America, but it’s sitting in the middle of the pack when it comes to the happiness index. The country gained two spots on the list over the past year.
Happiness in Czech Republic continues to rise, as the country jumped four positions in this year’s World Happiness Report. This slot is considerably higher than its neighbors, Slovakia (No. 45) and Poland (No. 57).
Known for its beautiful beaches, rich culture, and delicious food, Brazil stands out as a majestic destination for travelers. Residents are also glad to be there, even if the country fell five slots on the happiness index.
The United Arab Emirates has seen its happiness ranking decline over the years, but the overall mood is improving. The recovery in the country’s ranking is impressive, climbing seven spots in the last year alone. Two of its cities made our list of the safest in the world, notably its capital which came in as the absolute safest.
Sunshine, blue skies, and world-class wine sure make people happy in Chile. Perhaps that’s why the country has one of the better scores for healthy life expectancy on the happiness index.
Happiness declined slightly in the United Kingdom over the past year. Despite a recently tense political climate, thanks in large part to the issue of Brexit, the United Kingdom moved up four spots on the World Happiness Report.
Life is great in the grand duchy, as Luxembourg climbed two positions on the happiness index this year. One feel-good point of fact is that the Luxembourg’s generosity score is on the higher side compared to other countries on the list.
With complete access to Belgian beer and chocolate, it's no wonder than the people of Belgium are among the happiest in the world. Belgium’s happiness across all categories is improving, helping it keep up with its neighbor, Germany.
Despite a slight drop in overall happiness, Germany maintains its position as the 16th happiest country in the world.
Jumping four spots on the happiness index, Ireland is in a much better place than the country was a decade ago. According to this year's World Happiness Report, the country is a prime example of happiness maintenance after the economic crash of 2008. It also recently overtook the United States as the most food-secure nation in the world.
After a contentious election year, the United States dropped one spot on the happiness index. While trust has declined slightly, the freedom to make life choices and a healthy life expectancy are a few of the factors keeping America in the top 20.
Austria performs well in many areas of measurable happiness compared to other countries in the world. The country’s happiness results in most categories are better than average, and it probably helps that they have a beer-filled spa.
Costa Rica is the happiest country in Latin America, having jumped two spots on the list this year. According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica’s advanced environmental practices contribute to the country’s overall happiness.
For the fourth year running, Israel maintains its spot at No. 11 on the World Happiness Report. That makes it the list's highest ranked country located in the Middle East.
For the second year in a row, Sweden has staked its claim as the 10th happiest country in the world. This is in spite of a small decline in overall happiness over the past year.
Australia received the same overall happiness score as Sweden, but the people from Down Under edged out the Swedes in several categories including social support, healthy life expectancy, and generosity. We bet their ranking will only go up next year now that they're getting burritos air-dropped by drones.
New Zealand is one of the more generous countries on the list, which helps explain why it has been a part of the top 10 the past two years. Their cheery attitude keeps the Kiwis just one spot ahead of Australia, but the pending "chipocalypse" may affect that standing by next year.
While Canada dropped one spot on the happiness index, it is still ahead of the United States. In fact, Canada performed better than the U.S. in every category except for GDP per capita,in which the country is only 0.067 points behind. Perhaps Americans would do well to learn these 12 etiquette lessons from their neighbors to the north.
It’s no surprise that the Netherlands is slowly making its way up the rankings of the World Happiness Report. Improving one spot this year, the Netherlands were once described as having the happiest children in the world by UNICEF.
Switzerland actually dropped two spots this year on the World Happiness Report, However, it remains one of the most trustworthy countries — even more so than the top country on this list.
The happiest country on the planet for three of the last four years, Denmark fell to No. 2 after the smallest slip in overall happiness (at 0.004). It's only 0.015 points behind the top country, however, so anything can happen next year.
Norway is officially the happiest country in the world (and Scandinavia!), according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. With record salmon sales and a tourism boom due to the popularity of the hit movie Frozen, Norway moved up three places to claim the top spot. If you're looking for happiness a bit closer to home, check out our list of the 50 happiest cities in America.