This year, according to the 2013 World Happiness Report, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Sweden have been ranked as the five happiest countries in the world. The report accounts for things such as social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, and perceptions of corruption.
So why are these countries so happy? With each group surveyed, there seemed to be a very common answer across the board: freedom. Free education, universal healthcare, and the freedom to be who you want all play a huge role in the overall happiness of each country.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Netherlands was ranked as one of the best countries for jobs. Nearly 75% of residents are employed, but they rarely work long hours which gives them more time at home to spend with their families. 94% of residents claim if they were ever in trouble, they're confident in knowing they can count on someone close to them for help at any given time. Children have a lot of freedom growing up in households that aim to please them, and in a country where college is free, young adults are given the opportunity to pick a career they're passionate about without the dread of paying out of pocket costs for an education.
The people of Switzerland value good work ethic and pride themselves on their ability to save money and spend wisely. Of all the OECD countries, Switzerland has the highest employment rate of 79% for people ages 15 to 64 and the average pay per household is around $30,000. Citizens of Switzerland claim they tend to have happier thoughts and experiences over negative ones on a daily basis and feel highly satisfied with their lifestyle and choices, overall.
In Denmark, the government goes above and beyond to ensure its residents are happy and healthy. The average gross pay in Denmark is one of the highest of the OECD countries, and if you lose your job, the government is there to support you for up to four years, covering up to 90% of your salary. Expectant mothers are on maternity leave anywhere from six to 12 months, and in a nation of over five million people, healthcare continues to be free. Literacy is around 99% for both males and females in Denmark and its citizens go to college tuition-free and are offered "SU" (financial aid) every month, even if they live at home with their parents. A third of Denmark's residents use their bikes to get around, making it one of the healthiest and most environmentally conscious nations.
Of all the nations measured, Sweden's people are among the healthiest, by a long shot. This might have something to do with their incredible air and water quality, since the country cares a lot about protecting the environment. Residents of Sweden enjoy around five weeks of paid vacation from work each year and understand the importance of spending time with their families. Sweden was the seventh country in the world to allow same-sex marriage and discrimination of any kind is highly unheard of here. With the free education system, young people are given the chance to decide their futures hassle-free and pursue the career path they want without worrying about the high cost of college or the debt most students take on in other countries after graduation.
Like its neighboring countries of Denmark and Sweden, Norway has a lot of the same values and freedoms, such as universal healthcare and the choice to attend college for free. People of Norway claim they can trust almost anyone and are continually happy with their life choices. The employment rate in Norway is around 75% with a gross pay of roughly $44,000 for full-time employees. Marriage is not something Norwegians consider to be a requisite, and cohabitation is highly acceptable and is perceived very similar to a marriage. It's not uncommon for unmarried couples to start a family together and if a mother chooses to stay home with her pre-school aged child, she will receive a monthly stipend from the government to help support her. Norwegians care deeply about one another and will often times treat tourists and visitors in a very warm manner, making them feel at home. Freedom of expression is highly valued in this country and they strive to treat everyone fairly.