These are the world's happiest countries

Northern Europe dominates Earth Institute happiness report; U.S. ranked No. 17


Image credit: Flickr/Candi_N

People can be happy (and unhappy) just about anywhere in the world, but the odds of them being happier are greater if they live in one of several Northern European countries, according the 2013 World Happiness Report by Columbia University's Earth Institute.

The five happiest countries in the world are (in order) Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden, concludes the survey of 156 nations conducted from 2010 to 2012.

The Earth Institute said six metrics were responsible for more than three-quarters of the final scores: healthy life expectancy, social support, real GDP per capita, generosity, freedom (or perceived freedom) to make choices about your life, and freedom from corruption.

Here's the rest of the top 20:

6. Canada
7. Finland
8. Austria
9. Iceland
10. Australia
11. Israel
12. Costa Rica
13. New Zealand
14. United Arab Emirates
15. Panama
16. Mexico
17. United States
18. Ireland
19. Luxembourg
20. Venezuela

Note that the U.S. is ranked below Mexico, a country many Americans won't travel to because of drug-cartel violence.

Well, clearly the Earth Institute didn't give enough weight to incarceration rates, gun ownership and increasing income disparity -- things that make the U.S. the best country in the world to many people (and corporations, which also are people)! The report also appears to overlook the benefits of corruption. Hopefully they'll tweak the formula for next year.

The nations with the lowest happiness scores -- Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Benin and Togo -- all are in Sub-Saharan African.

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