World’s Happiest Nations

Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in One of the World’s Happiest Countries

The World Happiness Report is released annually by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Below are the 10 happiest countries to live in, but why are people so happy there? And are there disadvantages to living in them?

1. Switzerland

1. Housing standards are particularly high
2. Excellent public education system (with many international schools for expats)
3. It is very clean and everything works

1. Difficulty finding accommodation due to high prices and strict rules
2. High cost of living and difficult (for expats) job market. Difficult to naturalize.
3. Stricter rules than many other Western countries

2. Iceland

1. Incredible natural beauty
2. No stifling summer days and mild winters
3. Sexually liberated and accepting

1. 20 hour nights in December (and vice versa in June)
2. No easy access to any other nation
3. Very high cost of living

3. Denmark

1. Excellent and free university tuition
2. Almost no crime means a high sense of security
3. They have a forest school system

1. Some of the highest taxes in the world
2. Very high cost of living
3. A long, wet winter, which can bring on seasonal depression

4. Norway

1. Active lifestyle in the beautiful and clean outdoors
2. A 7.5 hour working day
3. Free, high quality university education

1. 25% sales tax one of the highest in the world
2. Rain and wind, and dismal winter temperatures
3. Very high cost of living

5. Canada

1. Large with a diversity of places to live
2. Extensive government support (health care, welfare, etc.)
3. A strong employment market

1. A freezing 6 month winter
2. Very high taxes
3. Government coddling might stifle some

6. Finland

1. Free healthcare and education
2. Low crime rates
3. Very little economic inequality

1. High cost of living
2. Long nights and short, dark days in winter
3. A lot of alcoholism (people drunk in the streets)

7. Netherlands

1. Great social environment
2. A cycling culture means no traffic woes and an active lifestyle
3. Thirty hour work weeks

1. Traffic jams and public transport cancellations
2. Expensive healthcare
3. Unpredictable weather

8. Sweden

1. High standards of living
2. Free, high quality education
3. Great government benefits (healthcare, welfare, etc.)

1. Institutionalised racism has been documented
2. Almost no diversity
3. Difficulty finding a home

9. New Zealand

1. Incredible, diverse scenery (think Lord of the Rings)
2. Very low levels of corruption
3. Easy-going lifestyle

1. Limited career opportunities
2. Distance from other countries
3. Everything is expensive

10. Australia

1. High minimum wage and a great standard of living
2. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world
3. Abundant housing opportunities

1. High costs of private schools
2. Expensive health insurance
3. Very tight political control


Individual’s happiness is down to many different factors: genetic, psychological, biological, environmental. Sociologists are those who take particular interest in how environmental factors influence. How they do this is to measure the public as a collective, and how this changes as a result from macro changes, such as investing in more police officers and how this reduces or increases our anxiety.

Perhaps the biggest government policy that can lead to happiness for its residents, is the investment into mental health treatment. Having accessible and free ways for individuals to seek help and therapy can do great things, like reduce the suicide rate. The increase in awareness as well leads to a reduction in the stigma surrounding anxiety, depression, psychosis etc.

Crisis in climate is also a factor in the unhappiness and health risk of countries. Looking at the top 10 happiest countries, they all have beautiful natural landscapes intact. Most importantly, the governments of such countries, in general, are spending a lot of their efforts in bettering the future of the climate, e.g. subsidising electric cars. Compare this to China, with pollution rife from manufacturing and an uninhabitable amount of cars on the road, the smog that colours much of the country grey is merely symbolic of their mental wellbeing, too. Governments can emphasise a green future as a means to impose hope on a young generation. Caring about the earth is a great way to cure an existential crisis, too.

Another theme of the top 10 happiest countries is their tax policy, and what this reflects. Generally, those countries have medium to high taxation. For example, Sweden has almost 70% income tax rate for high earners, Denmark and The Netherlands also have a tax bracket over 50%. This is their way of funding wealth redistribution, either directly or indirectly. For example, the high amounts of tax they receive can be to fund unemployment benefits that are well above the poverty line (which the UK and the USA lack with, and arguably a factor in why they are not in the top 10 happiest countries). After all, income inequality is well established to be the reason behind crime statistics. This is partly because poverty drives desperation, but it’s also about feeling poor, as you can become detached quickly from society which can cause a state of anomie, as Durkheim would say. Of course, if you go too far with taxation, people lose a sense of freedom, and empirically have started to see decreases in their wealth and happiness.

Lastly, investing in education is perhaps the most obvious option, though often critically neglected. Classrooms with 30+ children to one teacher, underfunded after-school activities, teachers having breakdowns… This is the state of education in many developed nations like the U.S. and UK. Policy and investment to reduce class sizes and better support allows children to grow up with a sense of societal inclusion, and it takes the pressure of single parents in particular. Almost all of the top 10 happiest countries have an incredible education system producing not just bright minds, and an equality of opportunity amongst its young generation.

Jacquelyn Vadnais

Jacquelyn Vadnais is a global traveler, blogger, writer, author, and entrepreneur with a JD/MBA/LL.M degree. To date, she has visited 50 countries, lived in 8, and hopes to see a great deal more of the world.

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