By Lauren Sherman
According to a new report released by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a Paris-based group of 30 countries with democratic governments that provides economic and social statistics and data, happiness levels are highest in northern European countries.
Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands rated at the top of the list, ranking first, second and third, respectively. Outside Europe, New Zealand and Canada landed at Nos. 8 and 6, respectively. The United States did not crack the top 10. Switzerland placed seventh and Belgium placed tenth.
Wealth alone does not bring the greatest degree of happiness. Norway has the highest GDP per capita on the list — $98,822 — yet it ranked ninth, not first. On the other hand, New Zealand's happiness level is 76.7 out of 100 on the OECD list, but its 2009 GDP per capita is just $30,556.
According to a 2005 editorial, published in the British Medical Journal and written by Dr. Tony Delamothe, research done in Mexico, Ghana, Sweden, the U.S. and the U.K. shows that individuals typically get richer during their lifetimes, but not happier. It is family, social and community networks that bring joy to one's life, according to Delamothe.
The OECD data shows that another important factor is work-life balance. While Scandinavian countries boast a high GDP per capita, the average workweek in that part of the world is no more than 37 hours. In China, which got a low score of just 14.8, the workweek is 47 hours and the GDP per capita is just $3,600.
Going to the link to a slide show of the 10 happiest places, we find:
8. New Zealand