Travel Instagrams From The Leaders Of 2018’s ‘World Happiness Report’

worlds happiest countries photos

The UN’s ‘World Happiness Report‘ just dropped and it has some opinions about who’s happy around the world and who’s, decidedly, not. The report fleshes out data drawn from Gallop International surveys about happiness. Gallop uses a metric called the Cantril scale where survey-takers are asked to scale their happiness from zero to ten — ten being the happiest. The report then squares this against each country’s GDP (per capita), social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and the society’s generosity.

The happiest place was Finland with an average happiness of 7.632 out of ten. The US placed 18th this year, in case you’re wondering (not bad, all things considered).

Not surprisingly, social democracies reigned supreme for overall happiness. Those are the countries with low to nill violent crime, great education and health care, solid social services and safety, and overall openness. The report also notes that citizens of these happy countries are totally cool with paying higher taxes to have all those benefits from their society. It probably helps the happiness to know and see where your tax dollars are going as well.

The report also indexed migrant life and happiness around the world. What they found was fascinating. Turns out people in happy countries are also cool with migrants coming there to find a better life. “Happiness can change, and does change, according to the quality of the society in which people live,” the report states. “The countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries, but instead the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives.” It seems that seeing other people find success makes everyone a bit happier.

Overall, the top ten countries of this year’s ‘World Happiness Report‘ were the ones you hear about year after year. It leans heavily towards Scandinavia and Alpine Europe with three former British colonies rounding out the list. And, given the extreme weather that the Scandinavian and Alpine countries endure every single winter, they must be doing something right for people to still be so happy in the face of all that cold, right?

Let’s take a look at what the top ten has to offer.


The magical land of Oz rounds out the list nicely with a 7.272 out of ten on the happiness index. That’s pretty happy. The combination of stunning weather must help people enjoy the decent social systems and good food. Though, chances of killer crocs and poisonous snakes have to count against Australia for something, right?

Nah, it’s still rad down under.


Out of the four Scandinavian countries on the list, Sweden comes in at the bottom with 7.3 out of ten. The country of ABBA and IKEA usually ranks pretty high on the lists of happiness and best places to live thanks to the fact that ABBA will always make you happy when you listen to it. The great social systems in place for every citizen don’t hurt either.

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The team…

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Down in the southern reaches of the Pacific, New Zealand erupts from the sea like a Polynesian paradise of shocking beauty. The mountains, the surf breaks, the cities, the endless wilderness, and the overall ease of life come together to make a great place to live.

It seems that New Zealanders are pretty happy about the islands they call home. You would be too.


Canada narrowly beat out New Zealand for seventh place — 7.328 out of ten compared to NZ’s 7.324. Still, Canadians probably would have been fine either way, those non-confrontational northerners.

Canada is a wild land of wonder from that stretches far into the Arctic. The cities on the southern borders are full of art, culture, and amazing food. And there’s a social net in place to make sure the people are, generally, taken care of.

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Monday drive in. 📷 @thematthewlai #streetsoftoronto

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Back in Europe, the Netherlands lands at sixth. As one of the only spots in Europe where it’s cool to enjoy cannabis, we’re surprised this one isn’t a little higher in the ranking.

The Netherlands has great public transportation, health care, education, social services, and one of the coolest cities in the world: Amsterdam. Those are big wins all around.


Switzerland is probably best known for their banks, melty cheese, and mountain peaks. Which is fair. All of that is there. Switzerland also has a very progressive view of social care and drug policy that the whole world can take a page from (especially in their humane approach to opioid abuse).

Amazing food, beautiful wilderness, and decriminalization of narcotics is a good combo these days.


Iceland is a huge, magical place with a very small population. And those people are pretty happy. With access to geothermal energy sustaining the whole population and a massive tourism boom, Iceland looks like it’s doing something right. Considering that the country has entire days of darkness during the icy winters, their citizens being this happy says a lot.

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Iceland is not real.

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The next three countries all ranked very close in the index. So, we/they might be splitting happiness hairs here. Either way, Denmark is a small nation with a lot of big ideas when it comes to social stability and mobility. People pay a lot of taxes and a get a lot back — like getting paid to go to college through a Ph.D. or having a great transportation network.

The whole system is definitely working for the Danes and they seem pretty happy about it.


Norway stretches well into the Arctic circle with towns that spend the better part of winter shrouded in darkness. Yet, here we are with Norway at number two. Norway, again, has top-notch health, education, transport, and social services and the people are happy paying for the good life.

There’s a pattern forming here.


Lastly, we have Finland in the first place spot. If you were to look up “harsh winters” in the ol’ dictionary, it’d refer you to Finland. Yet, they’re making it work, Seasonally Affective Disorder be damned. Finland has the happiest, or at least most content, people on the planet. And, yes, they have all the usual social mobility, services, and benefits you can expect after reading the first nine entries on the list.

The country works. The people are happy (despite long, harsh winters). Now, the question is: Do they have any job openings for Americans?