The Happiest Countries in Europe Shutterstock
Switzerland was found to be the happiest country in the world in 2015

Happiness has started to be regarded by many national and local governments as a measure of social progress and an important goal of public policy. The first World Happiness Report was published by the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network in the spring of 2012 in support of the April United Nations High Level Meeting on Happiness and Well-Being The meeting was linked to the Resolution of the UN General Assembly of July 2011 when the Prime Minister of Bhutan invited the other member countries to measure the happiness of their people and to make use of this information in designing and developing their public policy programmes.

Data about happiness deserves attention as it can be considered a real alternative indicator to economical growth. The World Happiness Report focuses on the conditions important for a happy life, which are based on decades of neuroscientific and psychological research. This report should be taken seriously as it took into account not only the evaluation of people in 158 countries about their lives, but also embraced factors including health and life expectancy, perception of corruption, social support, real GDP per capita and the opportunity to make life decisions.  According to its authors, the World Happiness Report 2013 has helped to satisfy growing public interest in applying the science of happiness to public affairs. Thus far the readership of the reports has been of about 1,5 million people, which represents a 50% increase since the first report was published in 2012. The main motivation of the report’s authors to continue their work was the interest of the readers worldwide. Besides, many governments pledged to bring their contributions to the improvement of “happiness” in their countries.  For example, Ruut Veenhoven, professor in “social conditions for human happiness” went to Denmark in March 2015 with the king of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima, willing to know the secret of Danes: how did they manage to take the top spot in the World Happiness Report two years in a row in 2013 and 2014. The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported on this trip writing that:The Netherlands can become even happier than Denmark”.

As the Ranking of Happiness itself attracts a great deal of attention, it has become an important marketing tool for the countries in the top 10. According to the World Happiness Report this year 7 European countries entered the top 10 of the most happiest countries, and the top spot was secured by Switzerland, a center of global wealth, fertile meadows, spectacular Alpine peaks as well as mountain lakes . It was followed by Iceland, a Nordic island country with breathtaking landscapes and fjords, while the winner of the previous two years, Denmark, Scandinavia’s greatest little kingdom, took the 3rd place.

Many of the happiest countries in the top 10 are located in Scandinavia: Norway (4th), Finland(6th) and Sweden(8th). This area has become for many people not only an important travel destination, but it is also attracting more and more immigrants despite the cold climate. If we take, for example, Sweden, 81,300 people applied for asylum in 2014, and 77% (63,000) requests were approved. One way to understand the reasons behind the Scandinavian countries' high ranking in the top is to look into detail at the their social policies. Some economists argue that generous welfare benefits and lots of redistribution of wealth can contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of all citizens. Other reasons may be hidden in the entrepreneurship potential of Scandinavia;  Sweden in particular supports its citizens to compete for business success. But there are critics of the Happiness Ranking which consider that certain countries have peculiar life expectations and different answers to the “happiness” question, although the living standards may be high in their countries. Eric Weiner, American correspondent for National Public Radio and the author of the book, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World, thinks that Danes, in other words, harbor low expectations about everything, including their own happiness and this can be one of the reasons why they and other Northern Europeans consider rude to complain about their life.

Another European country, the Netherlands, built up its “happiness” lead this year, ranking in the 7th place of the happiest countries according to the World Happiness Report. The country is known not only for its tulips, cheese and windmills, but also for the fit residents who due to their active lifestyle and a great passion for bikes are the only European citizens which are not at risk of becoming obese. As to the economic growth for 2015 in the Netherlands, it is estimated by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis that it will make up 1.7%, which represent the exact average for the EU.

One fact seems to be evident, the image of the happiest countries in the world will benefit from this report as the World Happiness Report attracts not only the attention of government officials and economists, but also of a wide range of media worldwide. This publicity seems to become a good reward for the public policy efforts of the countries and for the citizens’ commitments to make their country prosperous and happy at the same time. For example, popular American TV channel CNN covered this topic on its website, highlighting the most beautiful and worth visiting places in the countries of the “happiness” top 10, with the title of the article: Get happy in the world's happiest countries.