Norway is the World’s Happiest Nation

A girl in a park in Managua, Nicaragua. The country topped the list for gains in happiness. (Nicolas Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)
A girl in a park in Managua, Nicaragua. The country topped the list for gains in happiness. (Nicolas Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)

Norway can be frigid. And the winters bring lots of darkness. But it’s the happiest nation in world, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report.

Denmark comes in at #2, followed by Iceland and Switzerland. Finland takes 5th place. And, it turns out, these countries have more in common than a tolerance for cold.

Well-being is shaped by a range of factors. “All of the top countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance,” according to the report.

The second tier of the top ten includes the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden (the last two tied for 9th position).

The developing world has its share of unhappy countries. According to the report, some of the unhappiest nations in the world are Afghanistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti.

But there are encouraging signs in low- and middle-income countries. Cameroon, Latvia, Nicaragua and Sierra Leone, for example, are all on the list of the 20 countries reporting the highest gains in happiness.

Meanwhile, happiness in the U.S. has slipped a bit, according to the report. “The reasons are declining social support” as well as a decline in trust — and an increased sense of corruption, write the co-editors in a summary report. In 2015, the U.S. ranked 13th. This year, it slipped to 14th.

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SOURCE: NPR, Allison Aubrey