So what really decides if you are happy? Happiness means different things for different people; it could be family, career, friends or money. So how exactly do you measure the happiness of countries? Earlier only the GDP i.e. the gross domestic product or the economic condition of a country was the sole indicator of happiness. But in recent times other factors have also been taken into consideration to find out how happy the people of a country are. The two major indices which are used are the “better life index” developed by taking 11 categories into consideration by the OECD (Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development) whose members include only 34 very prosperous countries, and the other index is the Legatum prosperity index which is based on 18 different variables and has a much broader base of 142 countries. The categories with respect to which these countries are analyzed for finding the happiness level are:
- Entrepreneurship & Opportunity
- Safety & Security
- Personal Freedom
- Social Capital
According to the LPI as measured in January 2013, here is a list of the top ten happiest countries in the world in 2013.
Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries of Europe; it boasts of not just a picturesque landscape and a spectacular coastline but also has manmade structures forts and Neolithic tombs. Currently it is facing an economic debt crisis, yet the people of the country are one of the happiest of the lot. Irish people have a reputation of being generally amiable and good natured and though Ireland ranked worst in economy, it easily takes place among the top ten happiest countries on account of high safety, and ranks high in personal freedom, hence tenth overall.
A small landlocked country located in central Europe, Switzerland is one of the world’s most favorite tourist destinations. Abundant in natural beauty it hosts some of the most breathtaking views around the world which includes lakes, rivers, glaciers and mountain ranges.20% of the Alps are in Switzerland and these mountains are popular destinations for climbing, snowboarding, skiing and other activities. It has one of the most stable economies of the world, by virtue of its policy of long term monetary security as well as political balance, hence it fared really well on the economy and governance index taking top place, average in health, safety and security and not so good on the education front which finally puts Switzerland as the 9th happiest country.
Often referred to as Holland,it is famous for its tulip gardens and windmills. It is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. The head of state is the king Willem-Alexander who took over from his mother queen Beatrice on April 30 2013. Abundant in nature Netherlands boasts of an assortment of national parks, the largest coastal tidal wetland of Europe the Wadden sea, Limburg hills and the beaches of Zeeland. The 5th largest economy in the euro-zone, Netherlands has stable industrial relations, limited unemployment and inflation though recently affected by the Europe recession has led to several austerity measures and slow recent economic growth. Apart from that, Netherlands did much better occupying one of the top ten positions in the category of social capital and health to ultimately put Netherlands in the overall 8th position.
The republic of Finland situated in northern Europe is the eighth largest country in Europe and is also the most scarcely populated. One of the wealthiest countries, Finland is also reputed to have one of the best systems of educations of Europe. It has natural beauty in the form of thousands of lakes and islands and dense foliage, in fact it is Europe’s most forest covered country hence the largest wood producer as well. A parliamentary democracy Finland has one of the world’s best welfare systems which assure decent living standards for residents as well as non citizens. A peaceful nation, it is also ranked as one of the countries having the highest quality of life. The survey rated Netherlands as ranking 3rd in entrepreneurship and opportunity along with safety and security to secure 7th position in the overall list.
Located in the northern part of America, Canada shares the world’s longest border with the United States of America. With rich natural resources like large lakes, gorgeous mountains and valleys, this vast country is officially bilingual and multicultural. Most of Canada’s population is a mix of different ethnicities hence its culture has been shaped by various influences. Primarily agricultural, Canada has developed laterally with the United States in the field of technology and economy. It is no surprise that the Canadians are a happy bevy with 1st place in personal freedom, high ratings in governance due to its health care system, progressive taxation and poverty eradication efforts; in safety and security, average performance in health and economy and worst performance in entrepreneurship and opportunity.
5. New Zealand
Comprised of two main islands the north and south islands as well as a multitude of smaller islands, New Zealand is located in the south western region of the Pacific Ocean. Its remote location caused it to remain isolated for a long time, during which it developed a dramatic landscape with a variety of animal, plant and fungal life. Volcanic activity helped develop the diverse topography of the sharp mountain peaks. Its culture is dominated by rural themes-Maori culture on account of the largely led early rural life. Higher education in New Zealand was enforced more during the 1960s with the expansion of cities and growing awareness and now stands at one of the best. With optimistic expectations about its current economy due to increased consumer confidence as well as gaining the top position in education, governance and personal freedom no wonder new Zealand takes the overall 5th spot in the list of happy countries.
An island-continent-country Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy and is one of the wealthiest nations of the world. With a high ranking in international performance in the fields of health, education, economic freedom and civil and political rights upholding, Australia offers a great quality of life. Greatly urban, most of the population is concentrated along the coastal regions. With beautiful coral reefs on one side and protected national parks and reserves and alpine peaks and dense rainforests at the remote southern tip, it has diverse natural habitats with exclusive wildlife such as kangaroos. Having an excellent education system with an adult literacy rate of 99 percent Australia has been among the top five scorers of the top thirty most developed countries and known for its well developed education system. It has the fourth highest life expectancy, placed in the top ten in personal freedom hence Australians are so contended and rank 4th overall.
A constitutional monarchy, Sweden situated in northern part of Europe is a highly developed country with advancement in almost every field. Having one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, high per capita income, high human development quotient, marvelous governance and one of the most competitive countries in the world Sweden is one of the best countries to live in. With breathtaking landscapes of the Scandinavian mountain chains along the west and the long coastline along the east, and large forested area, agriculture is the prevailing source of income of southern Sweden. The royal power held by the head of state king Karl XVI gusted is mostly ceremonial and the governance is parliamentary democracy. A peaceful country, it has always attempted to remain neutral. The current economic condition of Sweden has suffered a temporary setback due to the weakness among the country’s trading partners in the euro zone. With good education and healthcare, stable governance and personal freedom Sweden fared best in entrepreneurship and take the third place.
Famous for Danish architecture, the kingdom of Denmark is a constitutional monarchy as well and parliamentary democracy. A cycling nation, it is a norm for people belonging to all classes of society to cycle which is an expression of freedom, health and personal energy. The country is primarily urban with sparse woodlands. With a multi –party structure of governance it is a strong welfare state with almost no corruption and high economic equality. Consisting of a dominant market economy Danes enjoy a high standard of living and though economic slowdown has occurred on account of the euro zone crisis it is one of the least affected states. Ranked high in social capital and entrepreneurship and opportunity Denmark is the second happiest country in the world.
Norway has always enjoyed the reputation of being one of the happiest countries in the world. A stable and well functioning constitutional monarchy form of government, it is one of the most densely populated countries of Europe. A varied topography its interior is marked with high mountain ranges and lakes and impressive coastal views making it a top tourist attraction. A very wealthy country, with the highest capital reserve per capita, people enjoy very high living standards. Its economy is a mixed economy with low income inequality. With a strong emphasis on education public education in Norway is free. Performing well in economy as well as social capital this Scandinavian nation is the happiest country in the world.