The Happiest Place on Earth
October 1, 2013

The Happiest Place On Earth

No, it’s not Disneyworld as the company previously proclaimed. In fact, according to a National Geographic article, the happiest place on Earth has no Disney park. It does have amusement parks, but it also has high taxes, spends lots of money on social welfare (including education), and has very good health care. Furthermore, there is no war and less corruption than most everywhere else. What is this place?

As the 2013 World Happiness Report shows, Denmark is the happiest place on Earth. Denmark, the small, neutral, northern European country, boasts having the happiest people and happiest lifestyles. The top 10 happiest countries are:

  1. Denmark
  2. Norway
  3. Switzerland
  4. Netherlands
  5. Sweden
  6. Canada
  7. Finland
  8. Austria
  9. Iceland
  10. Australia

Know where the United States was on the list? Number 17. Yes, it is still in the top 20 list, but all but two countries in the top ten are in Europe, particularly northern and central Europe. The Happiness Report identifies some common themes of the happiest places on Earth.

  1. It (mostly) pays to be rich.
  2. More money means more problems.
  3. Being poor in Europe can be particularly rough.
  4. Nice weather doesn’t correlate to happiness.
  5. Happy people ride bicycles—by choice.

Let’s break these down a bit. First, the report found that most of the top ten happiest countries are very expensive places to live, which would require a comfortable wage, if not wealth. Though it might cost more to live in these countries, the cost is worth the outcome since they are happier peoples all around. But money can bring problems. For instance, as Nat Geo explains,

“On the other hand, warns Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia’s Earth Institute and one of the authors of the report, riches can cause stresses and problems of their own. In his introduction to the report, Sachs cites the “persistent creation of new material ‘wants’ through the incessant advertising of products using powerful imagery and other means of persuasion.”

Sachs warns that an advertising industry worth around $500 billion per year is “preying on psychological weaknesses and unconscious urges,” and therefore making us less happy. Unhealthy products like cigarettes, sugar, and trans-fats are being pushed to our detriment, he wrote.”

What this says is that it is not just money and wealth that lead to happiness. In fact, what comes with these two often keeps people disillusioned and stressed. Somewhere between making lots of money and ads about materials and products that are bad for us is the balance that leads to happiness. Likely that comes in the form of social welfare programs, nationalized health care, and free higher education.

The third theme is the struggle being a poor European country brings. National Geographic used Bulgaria as its example. It is a part of the European Union, but it struggles to see the happiness of the eight European countries in the top ten. This mostly comes from its economic struggles but also from the “endemic corruption.”

Fourth, climate is not everything when it comes to consistent happiness. Sure, when people vacation, they often want sunny beaches and pristine waters. With their daily lives, though, it seems that doesn’t matter. “With the lone exception of Australia (coming in at number 10), all of the world’s top-ten happiest countries have long, bleak winters. “

Finally, happy people bike. They bike to work, to play, to shop, and to socialize. They bike for fun and for exercise. And they have safe bike paths in cities, towns, country, and in the wilderness.

Soon, I will be traveling to Denmark as part of an envoy establishing a student and faculty exchange between my college and one in Denmark. I have been excited since learning I would be traveling to Denmark; however, now I am even more excited to learn about this happy country. Perhaps I can bring some of their habits home with me. Until then, though, I will definitely read more about all of these happy countries.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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