Happiest countries in the world 2020

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The happiest countries in the world 2020 have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. For the third year running, Finland holds on to top spot

Happiness is a nebulous thing; hard to grasp and harder to hold onto. Scientists, economists and philosophers have defined it through the ages as a combination of different things, among them health, wealth, companionship and security.

Various indices attempt to rank the happiest countries in the world on an annual basis. The World Happiness Report from the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is particularly interesting as it ranks 153 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

The SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing to produce a comprehensive annual list of the happiest countries in the world.

How to evaluate happiness

SDSN highlights that its rankings are not an index like the longer running Human Development Index (HDI) and more recent Happy Planet Index (HPI). These are often influenced by sponsors and draw only partly on self-assessment – or make no use of it at all.

SDSN stresses that its findings draw heavily on data from population samples in each country, using a life evaluation survey to produce subjective wellbeing data.

The report principally relies on asking a straightforward, subjective question of more than 1,000 people in each country:

Imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top.

The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?

That is not to say the report is without a scientific basis. Economic and social influences are considered along with the survey (namely GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption), but the focus is on how happy citizens say they are; not how happy statisticians think they should be.

Top 10 happiest countries

Finland takes the top spot once again as the happiest country in the world. Rounding out the rest of the top 10 are countries that have consistently ranked among the happiest. The only top-10 newcomer was Luxembourg.

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Switzerland
  4. Iceland
  5. Norway
  6. Netherlands
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Austria
  10. Luxembourg

Top 10 happiest cities

For the first time in its history, the report also ranked individual cities by residents’ perception of their own well-being. Unsurprisingly, Finland’s capital Helsinki was in first place.

  1. Helsinki, Finland
  2. Aarhus, Denmark
  3. Wellington, New Zealand
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Copenhagen, Denmark
  6. Bergen, Norway
  7. Oslo, Norway
  8. Tel Aviv, Israel
  9. Stockholm, Sweden
  10. Brisbane, Australia

► View the complete city rankings here.

The geography of happiness

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between unhappiness and the poorest and most dangerous countries. Nine of the top 10 happiest countries are European nations with only New Zealand from outside Europe.

The report also demonstrates that, generally, the happiness ranking of cities is very similar – almost identical in fact – to that of the countries in which they are located.

Scandinavia is home to some of happiest countries in the world

The UK is ranked 13th, gaining three spots from 16th last year, while the US is ranked 18th, up one spot from last year.

Troubled Afghanistan is ranked the least happy country in the world. The rest of the bottom five comprise South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and the Central African Republic.

Happiest countries in the world 2020 – complete rankings

RankCountryScore
1Finland-7.809
2Denmark-7.646
3Switzerland-7.560
4Iceland-7.504
5Norway-7.488
6Netherlands-7.449
7Sweden-7.353
8New Zealand-7.300
9Austria-7.294
10Luxembourg-7.238
11Canada-7.232
12Australia-7.223
13UK-7.165
14Israel-7.129
15Costa Rica-7.121
16Ireland-7.094
17Germany-7.076
18USA-6.940
19Czech Rep.-6.911
20Belgium-6.864
21UAE-6.791
22Malta-6.773
23France-6.664
24Mexico-6.465
25Taiwan-6.455
26Uruguay-6.440
27Saudi Arabia-6.406
28Spain-6.401
29Guatemala-6.399
30Italy-6.387
31Singapore-6.377
32Brazil-6.376
33Slovenia-6.363
34El Salvador-6.348
35Kosovo-6.325
36Panama-6.305
37Slovakia-6.281
38Uzbekistan-6.258
39Chile-6.228
40Bahrain-6.227
41Lithuania-6.215
42Trinidad & Tobago-6.192
43Poland-6.186
44Colombia-6.163
45Cyprus-6.159
46Nicaragua-6.137
47Romania-6.124
48Kuwait-6.102
49Mauritius-6.101
50Kazakhstan-6.058
51Estonia-6.022
52Philippines-6.006
53Hungary-6.000
54Thailand-5.999
55Argentina-5.975
56Honduras-5.953
57Latvia-5.950
58Ecuador-5.925
59Portugal-5.911
60Jamaica-5.890
61South Korea-5.872
62Japan-5.871
63Peru-5.797
64Serbia-5.778
65Bolivia-5.747
66Pakistan-5.693
67Paraguay-5.692
68Dominican Rep.-5.689
69Bosnia & Herz.-5.674
70Moldova-5.608
71Tajikistan-5.556
72Montenegro-5.546
73Russia-5.546
74Kyrgyzstan-5.542
75Belarus-5.540
76Northern Cyprus-5.536
77Greece-5.515
78Hong Kong-5.510
79Croatia-5.505
80Libya-5.489
81Mongolia-5.456
82Malaysia-5.384
83Vietnam-5.353
84Indonesia-5.286
85Ivory Coast-5.233
86Benin-5.216
87Maldives-5.198
88Congo-5.194
89Azerbaijan-5.165
90Macedonia-5.160
91Ghana-5.148
92Nepal-5.137
93Turkey-5.132
94China-5.124
95Turkmenistan-5.119
96Bulgaria-5.102
97Morocco-5.095
98Cameroon-5.085
99Venezuela-5.053
100Algeria-5.005
101Senegal-4.981
102Guinea-4.949
103Niger-4.910
104Laos-4.889
105Albania-4.883
106Cambodia-4.848
107Bangladesh-4.833
108Gabon-4.829
109South Africa-4.814
110Iraq-4.785
111Lebanon-4.772
112Burkina Faso-4.769
113Gambia-4.751
114Mali-4.729
115Nigeria-4.724
116Armenia-4.677
117Georgia-4.673
118Iran-4.672
119Jordan-4.633
120Mozambique-4.624
121Kenya-4.583
122Namibia-4.571
123Ukraine-4.561
124Liberia-4.558
125Palestinian Territories-4.553
126Uganda-4.432
127Chad-4.423
128Tunisia-4.392
129Mauritania-4.375
130Sri Lanka-4.327
131Congo (DRC)-4.311
132Swaziland-4.308
133Myanmar-4.308
134Comoros-4.289
135Togo-4.187
136Ethiopia-4.186
137Madagascar-4.166
138Egypt-4.151
139Sierra Leone-3.926
140Burundi-3.775
141Zambia-3.759
142Haiti-3.721
143Lesotho-3.653
144India-3.573
145Malawi-3.538
146Yemen-3.527
147Botswana-3.479
148Tanzania-3.476
149Central African Rep.-3.476
150Rwanda-3.312
151Zimbabwe-3.299
152South Sudan-2.817
153Afghanistan-2.567

Download the complete World Happiness Report here.

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Happiest cities in the world


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Lead image: Denis Belitsky/Shutterstock

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