Danes happiest on Earth Britons a bit miserable Americans in between

The Danes are the happiest people on Earth, followed by the Swiss, while Britons are comparatively miserable among the rich nations, but happier than the French and Italians. The only European countries happier than the Americans are the small northern ones.

The World Happiness Report 2016 Update ranks 156 nations by their levels of happiness. The latest update was released today in Rome in advance of the United Nations International Day of Happiness, 20th March.

The United Kingdom stands at number 23, behind several much poorer countries, such as Brazil, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Danes Happiest people in the worldRanking of Happiness 2013-2015 (Part 1) – top 50 countries. (Source: World Happiness Report 2016)

If you believe Italians spend their lives loving, laughing and smiling, think again. The country came in at number 50, placing it in the depths of a black depression compared to other rival nations.

The United States, at number 13, is the second happiest among the G10 countries (10 largest economies) after Canada. Canada, New Zealand and Australia, at 6th, 8th and 9th place respectively, are the world’s happiest English-speaking nations.



Interest in the World Happiness Reports, of which this is the fourth, has been spreading rapidly. This reflects growing global interest in using happiness and subjective well-being as the main indicators of the quality of human development.

A large number of governments, organizations and communities today are using happiness data to enable policies that support better lives.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said:

“Measuring self-reported happiness and achieving well-being should be on every nation’s agenda as they begin to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Danes HappiestThe Danish people are the happiest in the world.

“Indeed the Goals themselves embody the very idea that human well-being should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives.”

“Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just, and environmentally sustainable.”



This year, the update includes for the first time a measurement of inequality in the distribution of well-being among countries and regions, and its consequences.

In previous reports, the editors have argued that happiness is a more accurate indicator of human welfare than do income, education, poverty, health, and good government measured separately.

They now argue, in a parallel way, that the inequality of well-being provides a broader measure of inequality. The authors found that people living in societies will less inequality of happiness are overall happier.

English Speakers Happiness RankingAmong the English speaking countries, the UK ranked poorly. (Source: World Happiness Report 2016)

According to the authors, happiness inequality has increased considerably in most countries since the reports began four years ago.

The report-authors wrote:

“In this report we give new attention to the inequality of happiness across individuals. The distribution of world happiness is presented first by global and regional charts showing the distribution of answers, from roughly 3,000 respondents in each of more than 150 countries, to a question asking them to evaluate their current lives on a ladder where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10, the best possible.”

“For the world as a whole, the distribution is very normally distributed about the median answer of 5, with the population-weighted mean being 5.4. When the global population is split into ten geographic regions, the resulting distributions vary greatly in both shape and average values. Only two regions — the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean — have more unequally distributed happiness than does the world as a whole.”

The report was produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). It was edited (once again) by Professor John F. Helliwell from the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advances Research; Professor Sachs, director of the Earth Institute and SDSN; and Professor Richard Layard, director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance.

The top 10 happiest countries in this new update are the same ones as in the 2015 report, although their ordering has changed, with Denmark beating Switzerland to top spot.

Citation: “World Happiness Report 2016 – Volume I,” Edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs. Sustainable Development Solutions Network. ISBN 978-0-9968513-4-3 Volume II.

Video – Denmark the happiest country in the world

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