The Happiest Countries in the World

Source: Leonardo Borges / iStock via Getty Images

Israelis have recently taken to the streets in mass protests over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to pass legislation that would weaken the country’s judiciary. The legislation would have given the government greater control over Supreme Court appointments, a move that could make it more difficult to remove Netanyahu from office amid corruption allegations. The protests forced Netanyahu to postpone a final vote on the measure.

Before this constitutional crisis that Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog warned could lead to mass violence, however, a popular survey that has been published annually since 2012 found Israel to be not only one of the happiest countries in the world but also one of the few countries whose citizens have reported increases in satisfaction over the past decade and since the peak years of the covid pandemic from 2020 to 2022.

To find the 30 happiest countries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the World Happiness Report 2023 published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Countries are ranked by the average Life Ladder, or subjective well-being, score for the pandemic years 2020-2022. The Life Ladder score is based on the Gallup World Survey, which asked people across 137 countries to rate their lives from 0 to 10. (See if any of the happiest countries are also among the countries the most people would move to if they could.)

The report also attempts to explain a country’s happiness by six determinants: gross domestic product per capita, healthy life expectancy, social support, perceived freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perception of corruption.

Citizens of only four of the 30 happiest countries – Israel, Uruguay, the United Arab Emirates, and Lithuania — reported an increase in happiness levels, at least as measured by the Gallup poll, over the past decade and through the challenging years of the pandemic. In many countries, happiness scores declined during the pandemic years. In 10 of these 30 “happiest” countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United States, Canada, and seven Western European countries, reported happiness levels declined since 2012, and through the pandemic.

Though per-capita GDP is one measure that explains happiness well — as the wealthier and more productive the country, the less likely its people are to be unhappy due to their economic circumstances — most of the happiest countries have per-capita GDP levels lower than the United States, which ranks 15th happiest. Five of the 30 countries on this list have per-capita GDP levels below $40,000, well below the U.S. GDP per capita of nearly $64,000. (Also see, the countries with the most gold.)

Healthy life expectancy, which is the average number of years a person is expected to live without disabilities, illnesses, or injuries, is above 72 years in six of the 30 countries on the list, led by Singapore. In two countries, however, the healthy life expectancy is below 66 years: Saudi Arabia and the United States.

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