International Day of Happiness 2023: Unveiling Happiness Across the Globe

Today is one of our favourite days on the calendar… (drum roll) it’s International Day of Happiness! And the 2023 World Happiness Report has been released! So, we’re here to break down its key findings for you. This report, published annually by the United Nations, ranks countries based on their levels of happiness and delves into the factors that contribute to their peoples’ wellbeing.

International day of happiness 2023 - report summary

Over the last eleven years since the World Happiness Report's birth, there has been a noticeable change in public interest surrounding happiness. We’re happy to report that policy creators around the globe are seeing the value in happiness!  With pressure from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), nearly all its members collect annual data on the happiness of their people. Plus, the European Union asks its members to put happiness and wellbeing at the heart of their policies!

We explore the major takeaways from this year's report, examine the top and bottom performers and discuss some interesting trends. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee) and let's dive right in!

Top 10 Happiest Countries

First, let's take a look at the countries that topped the happiness charts. These countries showcase the highest levels of happiness in the world - and there's a lot we can learn from them! Here's the list of the top 10 happiest countries in 2023:

  • Finland

  • Denmark

  • Switzerland

  • Iceland

  • Netherlands

  • Sweden

  • Norway

  • New Zealand

  • Austria

  • Germany

As you can see, Nordic countries continue to dominate the list with Finland taking the crown for the fifth consecutive year. New Zealand is the only non-European country to make it to the top 10. But what makes these countries so happy?

Key Factors Influencing Happiness

The World Happiness Report evaluates countries based on six key variables, which are believed to significantly impact wellbeing. These factors are:

  1. GDP per capita

  2. Social support

  3. Healthy life expectancy

  4. Freedom to make life choices

  5. Generosity

  6. Perceptions of corruption

The top ranking countries excel in these areas, which helps to create a supportive environment for their people to flourish. Now, let's dig a little deeper into each of these factors and see how they affect happiness (spoiler alert, you’ll probably notice some key similarities with our neuroscience themes!)

  1. GDP per capita: A higher GDP per capita indicates a better standard of living and access to resources, which in turn can lead to increased happiness. However, it's important to note that wealth alone doesn't guarantee happiness – a balanced approach to wellbeing is essential.

  2. Social support: Strong social connections (we refer to this as positive relationships in our model) and a sense of community are vital for happiness. The top ranking countries have robust social networks, which provide a safety net in times of need and foster a sense of belonging. 

  3. Healthy life expectancy: Longer, healthier lives contribute to higher levels of happiness. Access to quality healthcare and an emphasis on preventative measures help the top ranking countries achieve impressive life expectancies.

  4. Freedom to make life choices: The freedom to choose one's path in life is crucial for happiness. In countries with greater personal freedom, people have the autonomy to make decisions that align with their values, leading to higher satisfaction levels. 

  5. Generosity: Acts of kindness and generosity have been shown to increase happiness, both for the giver and the receiver. The top ranking countries exhibit a culture of giving, which supports overall happiness.

  6. Perceptions of corruption: Trust in institutions and a sense of fairness play a significant role in wellbeing. Lower levels of perceived corruption contribute to a more optimistic outlook and higher levels of happiness.

The Least Happy Countries

Now that we've explored the happiest places on Earth, it's time to take a look at the other end of the spectrum. The bottom 10 countries in the World Happiness Report 2023 are:

  • Yemen

  • Afghanistan

  • Malawi

  • Tanzania

  • Rwanda

  • Zimbabwe

  • Burundi

  • Lesotho

  • Central African Republic

  • South Sudan

These countries face significant challenges, such as ongoing conflicts, political instability and widespread poverty, which negatively impact their people.

In Summary

The World Happiness Report 2023 provides valuable insights into the state of happiness across the globe. While it's fascinating to explore the rankings and the factors that contribute to wellbeing, it's essential to remember that happiness is a complex and multifaceted concept. It's influenced by a delicate balance of economic, social and political elements - as well as individual experiences and cultural contexts.

The happiest countries in the world, such as Finland and Denmark, demonstrate the importance of prioritising wellbeing and investing in social support, personal freedom and equitable institutions. 

On the other hand, the least happy countries remind us that there is still much work to be done in addressing global challenges like poverty, conflict and inequality. Understanding the factors that contribute to happiness is important - Much like happiness in the workplace, creating policies and initiatives that promote wellbeing and improve quality of life is key if we want to make impactful change globally.

Measuring happiness is something we, at The Happiness index, have taken seriously from the off - whilst there's still work to be done on a global scale, it’s encouraging to see that references to happiness and subjective wellbeing have drastically increased over the last 11 years.

As we go about our daily lives, let's remember to appreciate the factors that contribute to our happiness and consider how we can create positive change in our communities and the world at large. After all, the pursuit of happiness is a universal aspiration and we're all in this journey together!

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Linked to Happiness in our neuroscience methodology... learn more

Recommended reading

The Importance of a Happy Workplace

Creating an Employee Engagement AND Happiness Strategy

How to be Happy at Work

About The Happiness Index

The Happiness Index helps organisations measure the key employee engagement AND happiness drivers to power their people strategy.

Our unique platform offers the products, insights and tools to shine a light on your cultural health and empower management to drive thriving cultures.

Our neuroscience-based pre-built surveys measure the full employee experience - from onboarding to exit to empower and enable organisations to understand their people and create data-led action plans.


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