The happiest country in the world is famous for its butter cookies, Lego bricks and fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen — it’s Denmark, according to the 2016 World Happiness Report.
Denmark’s top spot isn’t exactly a surprise. The country ranked first in the 2013 World Happiness Report and third in the 2015 report. In fact, most of the top 10 happiest countries have retained their spots from last year, “although there has been some swapping of places,” the new report said.
The new report comes out just before World Happiness Day on March 20, and was released at the Bank of Italy during a conference on happiness and subjective well-being today (March 16). [See the Top 20 and Bottom 20 Happiest Countries of 2016]
Denmark scored a happiness rating of 7.526 out of a possible 10 points, with Switzerland (7.509), Iceland (7.501) and Norway (7.498) close on its heels. The United States (7.104) placed 13th — up two spots from last year, when it ranked 15th out of 158 countries.
In an effort to foster sustainable development, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commissioned the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in 2012, with goals such as ending world hunger and poverty, ensuring healthy lives, and promoting well-being. The network of leaders from academia, governments and the private sector published their first happiness report in 2012 and every year after that except for 2014 because at first the report was published with18-month intervals.
The 2016 Happiness Report includes the rankings of 157 countries based on survey data from 2013 to 2015. Each country had an average sample size of 3,000 people who answered questions pertaining to six variables: gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, generosity and absence of corruption.
The top 10 countries are “all small or medium-sized Western industrial countries, of which seven are in Western Europe,” according to the report. Surprisingly, the top 10 countries averaged a happiness score of 7.4 — more than double the 3.4 average of the bottom 10 countries, according to the report.
The least-happy countries include Benin (3.484), Afghanistan (3.360), Togo (3.303), Syria (3.069) and Burundi (2.905).
Ministry of happiness
The rankings are telling, as they account for more than just the economics of a country, said Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and co-editor of the report. [5 Weird Ways to Measure Happiness]