Say cheese! Switzerland the happiest country in the world, UN report finds

The happiest country in the world isn’t in the tropics, as you might expect, but is known for its snow-covered peaks and delicious chocolate and cheese: Switzerland took the top spot in the 2015 World Happiness Report, a United Nations ranking of 158 countries. Switzerland is trailed by Iceland, Denmark and Norway. All four countries scored between 7.5 and 7.6 out of 10 for well-being, and the differences in the scores are not statistically significant, the researchers found. Rounding out the top 10 happiest countries are Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia, all of which scored 7.2 or higher. The United States placed 15th, with a score of 7.1, according to the report, and the UK 21st.

This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being. It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust and good health.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

The U.N. happiness report, published every year since 2012, shows that happiness and well-being are critical indicators of a country’s economic and social development, according to a statement from the UN. The results come from 2012-2015 Gallup polling data, which included between 2,000 and 3,000 people in each country. Participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with their life on an imaginary ladder, on a scale from 0 (the bottom rung of the imaginary ladder, or the worst possible life), to the top rung, a 10, or the best possible life. Most of the differences in happiness among countries could be explained by six factors: levels of gross domestic product (GDP), life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and level of corruption, the researchers found.

As we consider the value of happiness in today’s report, we must invest early on in the lives of our children so that they grow to become independent, productive and happy adults, contributing both socially and economically.

Richard Layard, a professor at the London School of Economics