Ranked: The 20 Happiest Countries in the World

The U.S. is becoming increasingly unhappy, according to the latest edition of the annual World Happiness Report.
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Ranked: The 20 Happiest Countries in the World Getty images

The U.S. is becoming increasingly unhappy, according to the latest edition of the annual World Happiness Report, which ranks 159 countries in order of how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The U.S. has continued its fall down the rankings, coming in at 19th overall, down from 18th place last year and 14th the year before.

The report, released to mark International Day of Happiness 2019, is based on telephone surveys and face-to-face interviews, in which participants are asked to rate their lives on a scale between 0 (bad) and 10 (excellent).

The U.S. currently has a happiness score of 6.89, a fall of 0.4 points from the 2005-2008 period to the 2016-2018 period. Happiness is proving slower than the economy in returning to pre-recession levels. Violent crime and unemployment are also low, leaving people to wonder why Americans aren't as happy as they should be.

Researchers have suggested unhealthy internet and opioid use are driving this decrease in happiness. "Addictions come in many forms, from substance abuse to gambling to digital media," Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said in the report's press release.

"The compulsive pursuit of substance abuse and addictive behaviors is causing severe unhappiness. Government, business, and communities should use these indicators to set new policies aimed at overcoming these sources of unhappiness."

Northern European countries remain at the top of the global rankings, along with Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Outside of Europe and the Anglosphere, Costa Rica continues to rise up the rankings, coming in at 12th place. Although it has a far smaller GDP than the rest of the top 20, it spends a large proportion on health and education, and has strong environmental laws. Costa Rica overtook Israel, which slipped to 13th place.

With an increasing population and decreasing happiness levels, India is driving a global per capita trend towards unhappiness. The five largest drops in happiness since 2005-2008 were in Yemen, India, Syria, Botswana and Venezuela. The U.S. had the world's 21st biggest drop in happiness.

This slideshow highlights the 20 happiest countries in the world right now, with their positions in last year's report and their rankings for six subcategories believed to influence overall happiness: social support, freedom, corruption, generosity, GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy.

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