Western Harbour Malmo

World’s Happiest Places

Michael O'Hare - May 10, 2009

I’ve just read this article in Forbes magazine about a report of the World’s happiest places. It’s well worth a read and gives some insights into what makes people happy.

But before we talk about that, here’s a list of the top 10 countries.

Top 10 happiest countries

  1. Denmark
  2. Finland
  3. Holland
  4. Sweden
  5. Ireland
  6. Canada
  7. Switzerland
  8. New Zealand
  9. Norway
  10. Belgium

The Independent newspaper discussed another report from the University of Leicester in the UK a couple of years ago that drew similar conclusions, so maybe these countries do have something.

For me as a Brit living in Malmo, Sweden, I can definitely see that Swedes have a very good life compared to us British.  But equally the country is not perfect. In fact, some the happiest countries above are also quite high in this list from Wikipedia of the countries with the highest suicide rate.

That aside, what does the report have to say on what makes people happy?

What makes people happy?

Some of the suggested factors are:

  1. Wealth
  2. Productivity
  3. Family, social and community networks
  4. Work-life balance
  5. High employment rates

A couple of people commented in the blog that other reasons may be access to nature and wilderness, education and a good health system.

I agree with all the above, but I also think there is one more vital factor.

Cities for People = Happy Country?

The Danes have Copenhagen, the Dutch have Amsterdam and the Swedes have Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo. All great cities for people.

In today’s world, over 50% of people live in cities. So we need great cities for people to be happy.  Cities that enable people to be wealthy, have great jobs and great community networks. Cities that have good eduction systems, great health services and access to nature.

See my article on what I think we need to build to make a city for people.

Of course, it is not all about cities. There are many other aspects of a country that make a difference. But I do think cities for people are crucial.

What do you think?


  1. That’s funny. Look at 6-8 of those countries, just so gloomy.

    Look at the recent Forbes’ publication about the happiest cities in the world and extrapolate it. Please don’t think that Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium or New Zealans, are among the happist places!

    An European living in New Zealand

    Comment by J M — September 3, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  2. The list of the happiest cities in Forbes is based on how people evaluated cities on a given list. First, the respondents did not compose the list. Second, people might have a certain image of a city based on, say a Hollywood film, without ever actually visiting the city not to mention living there.

    Comment by Sodi — November 16, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  3. In addition to what is mentioned above I think a very important factor for the top ten countries is that they are of the countries with least social hierarchy, no social classes and everyone has a fairly equal chance at making their own life and fortune from equal access to education and no invisible social boundaries.
    Compared to other countries where you are almost certain to end up in the same social class as your parents due to the cost of education, general emphasis on peoples background and heritage and well established social classes.

    Comment by Klight — December 22, 2009 @ 6:50 am

  4. Perhaps these countries may consider helping other countries in need, who may not be so fortunate:


    Comment by USAcomments — January 30, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  5. I’m loving the whole theology on happiness. I feel also that if suicide is higher in one city than the other, it counters the opinion on what form of happiness you can expect from a city maybe. Look at it like this, if your city is a hot spot for getting completely high whenever and only having a good time, nine times out of ten it’s going to be filled with extremely happy people. As in saying that, instead of looking at the population as a whole, instead, we must try and observe what it has to offer other than what people say. Happiness can be estimated from looking at the poor people in these happy countrys. Are they happy? Mortality Rates along with suicides, note as well the life expectancy of individuals if possible. As i ramble along, I’m simply trying to throw examples of how to distinguish the extrapolated countries of happiness apart from each other.

    Comment by Dr. Jacob Zedlav — April 11, 2010 @ 12:27 am

  6. i dont know how canada got on this list. this is the most depressing spot on earth. thats why so many people smoke marijuana here and canada is amoung the highest for alchol consumption, cocaine etc. not too sure who is happy i guess just the people with money..

    Comment by ricky singh — May 31, 2010 @ 4:03 am

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