Come on – get happy

Bhutan, Denmark, gross national happiness, happiest countries, low unemployment, OECD, Scandanavia, study of happiness, work-life balanceWhat are the happiest countries in the world and why are they happy? According to, to make this determination, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) conducted a Gallup World Poll in 140 countries last year. The focus: “subjective well-being, defined as life satisfaction. Did people feel like their lives were dominated by positive experiences and feelings, or negative ones?”

Bhutan, the country where the mantra is Gross National Happiness, didn’t make the top 10. Neither did the US, Italy, Australia or Iceland. Here are the countries that did:

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

The old idea that people are happiest in and around the Mediterranean has been turned topsy turvy. What’s going on in Scandinavia and northern Europe that makes people so happy? Some contributing factors are:

  • Work-life balance. The Scandanavian countries have high GDPs, yet max out at 37-hour workweeks.
  • Strong government and business leaders. Happier people excel in these roles and in ones that require self-confidence and sociability. The Danes have a very positive view of their government.
  • Low unemployment. Denmark’s unemployment rate is 2%. Norway’s is just 2.6%. Many economists agree that a 4% unemployment rate reflects a stable economy.

Hamlet aside, Denmark consistently rates in the top 10 happy countries. While happiness and contentment are both relative and subjective, have you visited a country that you’d add to the happiness list?
Find out what makes Danes happy. Listen to  WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, From Denmark With Love.

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