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For the fourth year running, Finland has come out on top in the annual list powered by data from the Gallup World Poll, with Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands following in second, third, fourth and fifth position respectively.

Standard of Living vs. Happy Life

Standard of living refers to the level of wealth, comfort, material goods, and necessities available to a certain socioeconomic class or geographic area. Quality of life, on the other hand, is a subjective term that can measure happiness.

The two terms are often confused because there may be some perceived overlap in how they are defined. But knowing the different nuances of each can affect how you evaluate a country where you might be looking to invest some money.

Both can be flawed indicators because the factors can vary between people in the same geographic area or socioeconomic class.

The rankings of national happiness are based on a Cantril ladder survey. Nationally representative samples of respondents are asked to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale. The report correlates the life evaluation results with various life factors.

From 2021 the World Happiness Report has advocated for the use of WELLBYs (Well-Being-Adjusted Life-Years); it argues that QALYs only count the individual patient's health-related quality of life, and instead WELLBYs should be used. Policy-makers should aim to maximise the WELLBYs of all who are born, and also include the WELLBYs of future generations. (source:

These are the 10 happiest countries in 2021. Source:

10. Austria

In Austria hs an amazing scenery, beautiful lakes, and stunning mountain ranges as well as lovely wine regions and national parks featuring diverse landscapes. Austria has one of the most advanced and comprehensive systems of social legislation in the world. Unemployment benefits mostly range from 40–50% of previous normal earnings. After three years' service, regular benefits are paid up to between 20 and 30 weeks; thereafter.

9. New Zealand

Dan Freeman/Unsplash
Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash

The only non-European country to make the top 10, New Zealand rates consistently high for its quality of life and getting the work-life balance right. In the past year, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has also been praised for her handling of the pandemic with her early actions Credited with saving countless Kiwi lives and helping open up society earlier than the rest of the world.

8. Norway

Credit: PikWizard

Norway has been dropping in this ranking since 2017, when it held the top spot, and this year it comes in as the sixth-happiest country in the world. But there's not too much to complain about. The mix of a well-integrated government welfare system and a thriving economy built on responsible management of its natural resources (good riddance, fossil fuel-powered cars) means that very few are left behind, and the feelings of social support, trust in government, and economic well-being that come from that all contribute to overall happiness.

7. Germany

Photo by Ansgar Scheffold on Unsplash

Germany has leapfrogged 10 places in a year to become a new entry in this year’s top 10. Life evaluations have been on the increase in the last two surveys, with greater financial security and family stability being key reasons. And until recently at least, Germans have generally been happy with how the country’s leaders have dealt with the pandemic.

6. Sweden

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Often held up as the poster child of what the Scandinavian welfare model can do, Sweden has a lot to live up to. While it is lower in the rankings in this year’s survey than in previous years, the country is still one of the best places in the world to live, work and raise a family thanks to a well-respected education system and world-leading practices including generous parental leave and free childcare.

5. The Netherlands

Moving up one spot from sixth place to the dead-centre of the table, the Dutch are as happy as they have ever been. And in the Netherlands, happiness starts young. A string of reports in the last decade, including one by Unicef, the Dutch Statistics Office and the World Health Organization (WHO), have all shown consistently shown high satisfaction for life among Dutch teenagers.

4. Switzerland

Credit: PikWizard

Switzerland’s system of government is perhaps an anomaly in much of Europe, let alone the world. With regular referenda on key issues, the Swiss are some of the most politically astute Europeans and highly engaged in terms of democratic participation. Having such a big say on how your country is run seems to directly correlate to your happiness levels. And living in those fairytale landscapes couldn’t hurt either.

3. Denmark

Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Danes have hogged the top spot in the happiness rankings in recent years. With such lifestyle choices as the now internationally-recognised "hygge," the Danish way of life has long been coveted around the world. As a bike-friendly country, respect for your surroundings has played a large part in Danes’ general happiness, as have well paying jobs, good work-life balance and excellent social security system, even if the country is slowly slipping down the rankings.

2. Iceland

iceland fittotravel
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

There’s little that fazes Icelanders. In a small country where active volcanoes can erupt at any moment, Iceland’s population of 350,000 knows how to pull together in troubling times. It did so in the wake of the 2007 financial meltdown which plunged the country into crisis, for instance. Given the nature of the country, where the climate is often unforgiving and the winters long, Icelanders are hardy, friendly people - and it shows in their happiness ratings.

1. Finland

Julius Jansson/Unsplash
by Julius Jansson/Unsplash

Crowned the happiest country in the world for the fourth year running, Finland looks like it has cracked the secret to being happy. The fact that it is a high-income country whose education system is the envy of the world may have something to do with it, as does its self-care culture of saunas and outdoor pursuits. This year, above all else, confidence in the government seems to have played a large part. The report’s authors noted that Finland "ranked very high on the measures of mutual trust that have helped to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic".


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