Ranked: happiest countries in the world 2022

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Finland tops the rankings of the happiest countries in the world for the fifth year running

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.

Ever since 2011, when the United Nations (UN) adopted a resolution sponsored by Bhutan, entitled ‘Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development’, governments have worked to give more weight to happiness and well-being when determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development.

The Tiger's Nest in Bhutan
S_jakkarin/Shutterstock Bhutan pioneered recognising happiness and well-being

As such, various indices attempt to rank the happiest countries in the world on an annual basis. Now in its 10th year, the World Happiness Report from the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is particularly interesting as it ranks 146 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

“A decade ago, governments around the world expressed the desire to put happiness at the heart of the global development agenda, and they adopted a UN General Assembly resolution for that purpose. The World Happiness Report grew out of that worldwide determination to find the path to greater global well-being. Now, at a time of pandemic and war, we need such an effort more than ever. And the lesson of the World Happiness Report over the years is that social support, generosity to one another, and honesty in government are crucial for well-being. World leaders should take heed. Politics should be directed as the great sages long ago insisted: to the well-being of the people, not the power of the rulers.”

Jeffrey Sachs, World Happiness Report

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.

Assessing 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 private sponsors and only partly draw on self-assessment – or make no use of it at all.

SDSN emphasises that its findings draw heavily on data from population samples in each country, using a life evaluation survey to produce subjective well-being 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?”

World Happiness Report

That is not to say the report is without a scientific basis. Economic and social factors 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.

10 happiest countries

Once again, Finland is named the happiest country in the world. Rounding out the rest of the top 10 are countries that have consistently ranked among the happiest.

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Sweden
  8. Norway
  9. Israel
  10. New Zealand
A northern lights scene from Finland – the happiest country in the world 2022
DENIS BELITSKY/SHUTTERSTOCK Finland remains the world’s happiest country

10 unhappiest countries

At the other end of the table, war-scarred Afghanistan remains last as its humanitarian crisis continues to deepen after the Taliban returned to power in 2021.

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Lebanon
  3. Zimbabwe
  4. Rwanda
  5. Botswana
  6. Lesotho
  7. Sierra Leone
  8. Tanzania
  9. Malawi
  10. Zambia
A mountain scene from Romania – one of the most improved in this year's happiest countries index
Roberto Sorin/Shutterstock Romania recorded one of the biggest improvements in wellbeing

The geography of happiness

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between unhappiness and the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries. Eight of the 10 unhappiest nations are in Africa with the other two, Afghanistan and Lebanon, respectively facing political and financial instability. This year’s report was compiled before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Eight of the 10 happiest countries are European nations with only Israel and New Zealand from outside Europe. The UK remains in 17th place while the USA is ranked 16th, up three places from last year and the highest-placed country in the Americas after Canada in 15th. France climbed to 20th, its highest position yet. Australia is 12th.

The highest-ranked country in the Middle East is Bahrain (21) with Taiwan (26) and Singapore (27) the happiest countries in Asia. Costa Rica (23) is the happiest in Latin America with Uruguay (30) the highest-placed in South America. Mauritius (52) is the happiest African nation in the ranking.

In terms of the score, Bulgaria (5.3), Romania (6.4) and Serbia (6.1) recorded the biggest improvements while Afghanistan (2.4), Lebanon (2.9) and Venezuela (4.9) recorded the largest declines.

Happiest countries in the world 2022 – complete rankings

The World Happiness Report compiles data from the last three years of available surveys. The overall happiness scores are calculated from the average of the six factors mentioned above.

RankCountryScore
1Finland7.821
2Denmark7.636
3Iceland7.557
4Switzerland7.512
5Netherlands7.415
6Luxembourg*7.404
7Sweden7.384
8Norway7.365
9Israel7.364
10New Zealand7.200
11Austria7.163
12Australia7.162
13Ireland7.041
14Germany7.034
15Canada7.025
16USA6.977
17UK6.943
18Czechia6.920
19Belgium6.805
20France6.687
21Bahrain6.647
22Slovenia6.630
23Costa Rica6.582
24UAE6.576
25Saudi Arabia6.523
26Taiwan6.512
27Singapore6.480
28Romania6.477
29Spain6.476
30Uruguay6.474
31Italy6.467
32Kosovo6.455
33Malta6.447
34Lithuania6.446
35Slovakia6.391
36Estonia6.341
37Panama6.309
38Brazil6.293
39Guatemala*6.262
40Kazakhstan6.234
41Cyprus6.221
42Latvia6.180
43Serbia6.178
44Chile6.172
45Nicaragua6.165
46Mexico6.128
47Croatia6.125
48Poland6.123
49El Salvador6.120
50Kuwait*6.106
51Hungary6.086
52Mauritius6.071
53Uzbekistan6.063
54Japan6.039
55Honduras6.022
56Portugal6.016
57Argentina5.967
58Greece5.948
59South Korea5.935
60Philippines5.904
61Thailand5.891
62Moldova5.857
63Jamaica5.850
64Kyrgyzstan5.828
65Belarus*5.821
66Colombia5.781
67Bosnia and Herz.5.768
68Mongolia5.761
69Dominican Republic5.737
70Malaysia5.711
71Bolivia5.600
72China5.585
73Paraguay5.578
74Peru5.559
75Montenegro5.547
76Ecuador5.533
77Vietnam5.485
78Turkmenistan*5.474
79North Cyprus*5.467
80Russia5.459
81Hong Kong (SAR)5.425
82Armenia5.399
83Tajikistan5.377
84Nepal5.377
85Bulgaria5.371
86Libya*5.330
87Indonesia5.240
88Ivory Coast5.235
89North Macedonia5.199
90Albania5.199
91South Africa5.194
92Azerbaijan*5.173
93Gambia*5.164
94Bangladesh5.155
95Laos5.140
96Algeria5.122
97Liberia*5.122
98Ukraine**5.084
99Congo5.075
100Morocco5.060
101Mozambique5.048
102Cameroon5.048
103Senegal5.046
104Niger*5.003
105Georgia4.973
106Gabon4.958
107Iraq4.941
108Venezuela4.925
109Guinea4.891
110Iran4.888
111Ghana4.872
112Turkey4.744
113Burkina Faso4.670
114Cambodia4.640
115Benin4.623
116Comoros*4.609
117Uganda4.603
118Nigeria4.552
119Kenya4.543
120Tunisia4.516
121Pakistan4.516
122Palestinian Territories*4.483
123Mali4.479
124Namibia4.459
125Eswatini (Swaziland)*4.396
126Myanmar4.394
127Sri Lanka4.362
128Madagascar*4.339
129Egypt4.288
130Chad*4.251
131Ethiopia4.241
132Yemen*4.197
133Mauritania*4.153
134Jordan4.152
135Togo4.112
136India3.777
137Zambia3.760
138Malawi3.750
139Tanzania3.702
140Sierra Leone3.574
141Lesotho*3.512
142Botswana*3.471
143Rwanda*3.268
144Zimbabwe2.995
145Lebanon2.955
146Afghanistan2.404

* Countries that do not have data from 2020 or 2021. Their averages are based on the 2019 report.

** The latest report was compiled before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Top 10 happiest cities

In 2020, the report 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 2020 city rankings here.

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► Countries with the fastest internet in the world
► Most stressed countries in the world
► Most expensive cities for expats
► World’s most democratic countries
Happiest cities in the world


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