The Happiest Country on Earth?

Dr Mandela Thyoka | Doncaster

The World Happiness Report1 (WHR) for this year has brought good news and bad news, depending on which country you belong to. The top and bottom rankings have remained the same as last year's report, with Finland continuing to lead the global happiness leaderboard for the seventh consecutive year. At the same time, Afghanistan has once again ranked last. It's unsurprising that Finland has maintained its stronghold as the happiest country, considering its stunning landscapes, a high quality of life for its people, and a simple and sustainable lifestyle involving a deep connection with nature and a love for local food.

The list of top 10 happy countries has remained mostly stable since before the Covid pandemic, with colder countries being more predominant and all five Nordic countries being included in the top 10. However, the latest report has brought bad news for the UK, which has dropped one place from the 2023 rankings and now stands at number 20 in 2024. There was also disappointing news for the Americans, as the US failed to secure a spot among the top 20 happiest countries in the world for the first time and was placed at number 23.

The top 20 happiest countries have shifted significantly, with Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Slovenia ranking higher than heavyweights like Germany and the USA.

Top 20 Countries by Life Evaluations 2021 - 2023

1. Finland (7.741), 2. Denmark (7.583), 3. Iceland (7.525), 4. Sweden (7.344), 5. Israel (7.341), 6. Netherlands (7.319)

7. Norway (7.302), 8. Luxembourg (7.122), 9. Switzerland (7.060), 10. Australia (7.057), 11. New Zealand (7.029)

12. Costa Rica (6.955), 13. Kuwait (6.951), 14. Austria (6.905), 15. Canada (6.900),16. Belgium (6.894), 17. Ireland (6.838)

18. Czechia (6.822), 19. Lithuania (6.818, 20. United Kingdom (6.749)


23. United States (6.725), 24. Germany (6.719)

For the first time in its 12-year history, the report has ranked countries according to age group, providing a more comprehensive understanding of happiness by age group. Lithuania ranked first for those under 30, and Denmark took the top spot for those over 60, pushing Finland to second place for both age groups. The young tend to be happier than the old in many, but not all regions, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe's transition countries. However, in North America and Britain, happiness has dropped so significantly for the young that they are much more likely to be unhappy than older generations. In Western Europe, happiness is similar across all age groups, while in other regions, it typically decreases throughout the life cycle, with occasional improvements for older people.

Happiness should be at the heart of every nation's agenda, ensuring the population experiences high levels of overall life satisfaction. The natural way to measure happiness is to ask a representative sample how satisfied they are with their lives. To determine the world's happiest country, researchers analysed comprehensive Gallup polling data from 155 countries for the past three years, explicitly monitoring performance in six particular categories: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.

The origin of the WHR dates back to July 2012 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/281, proclaiming 20 March as an annual International Day of Happiness. This year, 20 March, was a spring equinox, when the Earth's axis and its orbit line up so that both hemispheres get an equal amount of sunlight. For those living in the northern hemisphere like me, this day and the WHR provided a background of practical perfection in every sense, especially if you approach things by the Goldilocks Principle (not too little, not too much).

Happiness is a crucial element of our overall wellbeing. It is essential to find things that bring us joy because they fuel our motivation and give us hope for the future. In our pursuit of happiness, I am reminded of my favourite 'Happiness is the Lord' song lyrics by the Heritage Singers. The author of this song, Ira F Stanphill, was a gifted musician and a singing evangelist who preached all over America and in over forty other countries, eventually being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1981.

The song says, in part

  • Happiness is to know the Saviour,
  • Living a life within His favour,
  • Having a change in my behaviour,
  • Happiness is the Lord.


  • Happiness is a new creation,
  • Jesus and I, in close relation,
  • Having a part in His salvation,
  • Happiness is the Lord.


  • Real joy is mine,
  • No matter if the teardrops start,
  • I've found a secret,
  • It's Jesus in my heart.

This song points us to the source of true and lasting happiness: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. So, while the International Day of Happiness falls on 20 March every year, as Christians, we know that true happiness only comes from an intimate and loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

1Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., Sachs, J. D., De Neve, J.-E., Aknin, L. B., & Wang, S. (Eds.). (2024). World Happiness Report 2024. University of Oxford: Wellbeing Research Centre.