For the 50+ Traveler

Every year, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network releases the World Happiness Report. As the name suggests, it measures the reported happiness of the citizens of every country on earth in a never-ending quest to determine... What is the happiest place on Earth? (No, Disney. Not you.)

Here are 2018's top 7 happiest nations.

1. Finland

Despite long stretches of darkness and cold, Finland is collectively the happiest country in the world. Most Finns report a very high quality of life. Every person in the country has access to health care, there's free education, a high life expectancy rate, a minimal gap in incomes, and a reasonable work-life balance.

Happiness might also mean something different to Finns than their North American counterparts. Perhaps an old Finnish expression sums it up best: "Happiness is having your own red summer cottage and a potato field." Perhaps the Finns have figured out that a simple, content existence is the ultimate secret to happiness.

Finland lake

2. Norway

The former champion of happiness just a year ago, Norway has dropped to the second spot. Despite losing a spot, it seems unlikely Norwegians will shed any tears over that, silver medalists that they are.

Although money doesn't always equal happiness, experts suggest that being the sixth wealthiest country in the world contributes to the overall happiness. Another more heartwarming explanation is a simple one: relationships.

Norwegians have a phrase called "sted bundet" which means "place-bound." This exemplifies how many Norwegians think of the place they live. They tend to stay local and build long-lasting, deep relationships with people in their area.

Free education, almost entirely free health care, a universal pension plan for anyone 67-years and older, and 5-weeks paid vacation for workers are some other perks in the second happiest country in the world.

3. Denmark

Not only is Denmark 3rd on the list, it's a really great place to have a family. The country gives parents a total of 52 weeks of leave from work when they've had a child, along with free or minimal-cost childcare.

Biking accounts for an overwhelming number of Danes' commutes to school or work, likely accounting for increased health and happiness.

Social responsibility and gender equality are a couple of other noteworthy elements in Danish culture. The combination of it all makes this one cheery place to live.

Denmark boats in canal

4. Iceland

Although Iceland does have some of the highest taxes in the entire world, its people consistently call it one of the best places to live.

Locals say there's an enormous obligation they feel toward their fellow Icelandic people. If your car gets stuck in the snow, someone will stop to help you. Hitchikers, even travelers, have said that they can almost always expect someone to stop and offer a ride. What's more, you can actually trust the person offering.

The somewhat fierce environment that Icelanders experience (between volcanoes and winter darkness) has led to a resilient people who look out for each other and weather the storms in good spirits.

5. Switzerland

The Swiss have got it down pat: they have one of the highest GDPs in the world, the 10th longest life expectancy, an extremely low obesity rate, and they average about 35 hours of work per week.

Going beyond the statistics, visitors can easily see Switzerland has one of the most beautiful collections of natural wonders. Living with mountains and water almost always within a reasonable distance has got to do something for a person's mental state!

Switzerland mountain lake
Switzerland. Unsplash / Jairph

6. Netherlands

Work-life balance is a massive factor in happiness for most people, and the Netherlands seem to have it down to a science. Nearly 27% of men and 77% of women work part-time. We're not just talking gigs at McDonalds or Uber, we're talking quality part-time jobs. This means more family time and more time doing what you enjoy.

The average Dutch person exercises moderately four days a week, and as we know, regular exercise releases endorphins, or the "happiness hormones." It also promotes self-confidence and reduces the risk of illness.

Despite having one of the highest tax rates in Europe, locals in cities like Amsterdam are apparently happy to pay them due to premium city services and a great lifestyle.

7. Canada

Maybe it's the fact that you can bump into someone and they'll apologize to you. Maybe it's the fact that the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, enjoys surfing and kayaking with his constituents and is generally a pretty cool guy. There are a myriad of reasons, but Canada is the first non-European country to make an entrance on the happiest countries in the word list. That's a pretty big deal!

Canadian residents would likely cite acceptance as one of the biggest factors in collective happiness. Indeed, they ranked as the fourth-most accepting country to migrants on earth as well.

Were you wondering where the United States was going to show up on the list? You'd be waiting a while longer! They're holding down the 18th spot, and with the amount of turmoil the US has seen in recent times, it might be a while before it climbs back up the list.