Spellbinding chart reveals how top 20 league table of happiest countries in the world has changed over the last decade… and the surprising nation which now has the cheeriest under-30s

Photo of author
Written By Maya Cantina

A mesmerising chart shows how the world’s happiest countries have changed over time — with the exception of the top spot.

Finland, home to 5.5million people, was today named the world’s happiest country for the seventh consecutive year. 

It means all five Scandinavian nations have come in the top 10 most content places on earth over the past decade, despite their long, cold and dark winters. 

Afghanistan, meanwhile — for the fifth year running — remains bottom of the World Happiness Report.

When the global league table of more than 140 countries was broken down by age group, Lithuania was crowned as having the cheeriest under-30s.

Finland has been named the world’s happiest country for the seventh year running, in an annual UN-sponsored index. Pictured, Helsinki

War-scarred Afghanistan remains the unhappiest country in the survey of more than 140 nations, retaining bottom spot. Pictured, Mazar-e Sharif, provincial capital of Balkh province, Afghanistan

War-scarred Afghanistan remains the unhappiest country in the survey of more than 140 nations, retaining bottom spot. Pictured, Mazar-e Sharif, provincial capital of Balkh province, Afghanistan

Now in its 12th year, the UN-sponsored report is based on assessments of happiness from tens of thousands of people, as well as economic and social data. 

It gives a happiness score on a scale of zero to 10, based on an average score over a three-year period.

The rankings loosely correlate with a country’s prosperity, but other factors such as life expectancy, social bonds, personal freedom and corruption also appear to influence responses.

Rankings for both the UK and the US fell in the 2024. However, Britain has remained in the top 20 happiest nations for past decade in all but two years. 

From average salary to life expectancy: Facts about Finland 

Aerial view of Helsinki, capital of Finland

Aerial view of Helsinki, capital of Finland

Population: 5.5million

Life expectancy: 82 (80.7 UK, 77.2 US)

Average salary: 39,768 euros (£34,813, $42,622)

Average hours worked per year: 1,635 (1,742 in US, 1,673 in UK) 

Acute care beds per 1,000 people: 2.8 (2.4 in US, 2.1 in UK)

Child mortality rate: 0.23% (0.63% in US, 0.42% in UK)

Overweight and obesity: 57.9% (67.9% in US, 63.7% in UK)

Share of population with anxiety disorders: 4.39% (6.16% in US, 4.39% in UK)

Advertisement

It placed highest in 2020, at 13th.  

Conversely, Togo has consistently featured in the bottom 20 nations over the last decade. 

Egypt, Haiti, Rwanda and Sierra Leone are among the other countries frequently ranking in the bottom 20. 

In the UN’s fresh 2024 report, Finland was given 7.74 out of 10, while Afghanistan got 1.72. For comparison, Britain’s was 6.72.

The US’s score was marginally lower, seeing it drop out of the top 20 since the report started in 2012. 

Despite several overlapping global crises between 2021 and 2023, including Covid and war in Ukraine, most countries logged global life satisfaction scores that were just as high as those in the pre-pandemic years, the researchers found. 

Between generations, analysts found people born before 1965 are typically happier than those born after 1980. 

Britain scored 32nd for ‘youth’ — those aged 30 and under — and 27th for ‘younger middle-aged people’, aged between 30 and 44.

Among ‘older middle-aged people’, 45-59, it took 19th spot, with 20th for ‘older people’ — those aged 60 and above.  

Meanwhile, the US ranked 62nd in terms of happiness among younger people. Among the over-60s it came 10th.

It scored 42nd in younger middle-aged people and 17th for older middle-aged.

It marked one of the biggest discrepancies in rankings between age groups, with the nation recording a gap of more than 50 places between ‘youth’ and ‘old’.

Canada, equally, saw a 50 point gap with the over-60s taking 8th spot for happiness, while its under-30s scored just 58th. 

Experts said the data showed a worrying trend of younger people in Western Europe and North America experiencing the equivalent of a ‘mid-life crisis’.

Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, an expert of economics and behavioural science at the University of Oxford and editor of the report said: ‘Piecing together the available data on the wellbeing of children and adolescents around the world, we documented disconcerting drops especially in North America and Western Europe.

‘To think that, in some parts of the world, children are already experiencing the equivalent of a mid-life crisis demands immediate policy action.’

Lithuania (19th overall) had the happiest younger people in the global rankings for 2024 while Denmark’s (2nd overall) took top spot among its over-60s. 

Croatia saw the biggest gap among the two age groups, with the ranking for the young (14th) 66 places higher than for the old (80th). 

The report — published on the International Day of Happiness — is based on self-reported data from people surveyed in each country.

Participants are asked to rate their lives out of 10 and then an average score for the country is calculated based on the ratings received over the past three years.

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

Leave a Comment