• 08.11.10

World’s Happiest Countries: Norway, Denmark, Costa Rica, Turkmenistan?

Bhutan started the gross national happiness trend, but here’s what Gallup did with it.

World’s Happiest Countries: Norway, Denmark, Costa Rica, Turkmenistan?

Bhutan claims to be one of the happiest nations on earth and is one of the original promoters of “gross national happiness” as a serious socio-economic indicator, but an actual study on this stuff was just released by Gallup. Once again, the Scandinavians come out on top in life satisfaction–Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands are the top five happiest countries–and some really unexpected countries, such as Costa Rica (6th), Israel (8th) and Turkmenistan (18th), turned out to be happier than we thought.


But while Gallup was busy concluding its study on the world’s happiest countries, Bhutan was busy convening an actual conference on gross national happiness as part of the Gross National Happiness Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan. Purpose of the conference? To assess GNH as “an alternative measure of development.” And we thought alternative meant the Haight Ashbury.

Bhutan often gets made fun of for promoting the index over other more mainstream socio-economic indicators (like technological advancements, such as television). But listen to what His Majesty King Khesar, The 5th Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan had to say: “Whatever work we do, whatever goals we have – and no matter how these may change in this changing world – ultimately without peace, security and happiness we have nothing. That is the essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Our most important goal is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignty of the nation.”

Forbes reported, “The Gallup study showed that while income undoubtedly influenced happiness, it did so for a particular kind of well-being–the kind one feels when reflecting on his or her own successes and prospects for the future. Day-to-day happiness is more likely to be associated with how well one’s psychological and social needs are being met, and that’s harder to achieve with a paycheck.” So what does this mean about our rat-race global society? Perhaps the world has a thing or two to learn from Bhutan.

[Photos via flickr/Joe Shlabotnik (thumbnail); flickr/mikebaird (top); flickr/laihiu (center, homepage); flickr/babsteve (bottom)]

About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.