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November 11, 2021

Happiness is hard to measure, but a United Nations initiative has tried to find out. Each year, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network publishes its World Happiness Report - a study that examines the links between happiness and development while encouraging policymakers to place greater emphasis on the former. Some 1,000 people in each U.N. member state rate their quality of life on a scale of 0 to 10 as researchers analyze data in six areas: per capita GDP, life expectancy, social support, trust and corruption, perceived freedom in life choices, and generosity.

5. the netherlands

The most important statistic from the Netherlands this year? That happiness levels barely changed between 2005 and 2020 (we're talking less than 0.03 percent). And as it turns out, happiness in the Netherlands starts at a young age. A 2013 Unicef report ranked Dutch children as the happiest in the world based on a set of criteria related to education, safety and health. Vincent van Gogh was the exception, not the rule.

4. Iceland

Iceland Das glücklichste Land

Iceland takes one of the top spots when it comes to the percentage of respondents who said they feel they have a fellow citizen they can count on when things get tough. This was perhaps most evident after the country's post-2007 financial collapse and subsequent recovery. One might think that the constant flood of American tourists into Reykjavik has dealt a blow to residents' happiness-after all, it's harder to book a table now than it used to be-but when it comes to well-being, Icelanders are unfazed. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they can escape the city at any time to a landscape that looks like another planet.

3. Switzerland

Das glücklichste Land Schweiz

In Switzerland (which moved up three places this year), votes are held on everything from the number of vacation days for workers to how many immigrants should be allowed into the country, and referendums are held several times a year down to the local level. This system of direct democracy means that Swiss citizens feel an unparalleled sense of participation in the development of their country, from landmark decisions on human rights to whether a new traffic light should be installed in their neighborhood. The Swiss are known for being very closed-minded, and that can be off-putting to first-time visitors, but there is a strong social fabric held together by the belief that every vote counts, and that can go a long way toward feeling satisfied.

2. Denmark

Das glücklichste Land Denmark

Denmark remains in second place this year. The country ranks at the top for all reported criteria-life expectancy, social support, and generosity-but is also a country strongly committed to renewable energy generation (39.1 percent of its energy came from wind power in 2014). With the world's most bike-friendly city and a coastline you could spend a lifetime exploring, the country's good fortune is surely due in part to its respect for the planet it's built on. But a recent study by the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute (whose existence is probably reason enough for a top ranking) narrows Denmark's happiness down to a number of different categories, including trust in government, economic security, freedom, civic participation and work-life balance.

1. Finland

Das glücklichste Land Finnland

For the fourth year in a row, Finland is number one when it comes to happiness. The country consistently ranks among the best education systems in the world, occasionally being overtaken by countries such as South Korea, Japan and Singapore. Much of this success is due to widespread reverence for teachers, who are required to have master's degrees (their training is state-funded), and an educational system that focuses less on quantitative testing and more on experiential learning and equal opportunity.

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