These Are the World’s Happiest Countries

UPDATED: May 23, 2024
PUBLISHED: November 29, 2017

There are three basic strands of well-being, which I call the three P’s of happiness: pleasure, purpose and pride. At first, these strands might seem quite different from one another, but we often find them braided together in the lives of the world’s happiest people. 

Related: What You Can Learn From the Happiest People in the World

Costa Rica (Pleasure)

Much of the happiness experienced by Ticos, as Costa Ricans affectionately call one another, might be explained by three factors: extraordinary social support, freedom to make their own life choices and a culture of generosity. The pura vida mentality of optimism and gratitude suffuses every aspect of life there, from the way people interact with each other to appreciation for the land, which is itself a source of enjoyment and pride.

Denmark (Purpose)

Denmark excels in almost every facet of happiness, not only embodying a culture of purpose, but also consistently ranking at or near the top of every major list for the other two strands—pleasure and pride. The government has cleared a life path for its citizens: They, by and large, don’t have to worry about paying for health care, education or retirement, so they’re free to pursue jobs they love and enjoy recreation time. It’s a place where people can discover their passions and put them to work every day. Danes not only do well and feel good, they also live deeply fulfilling lives.

Singapore (Pride)

The people of Singapore exemplify the third strand of happiness—what experts call life satisfaction and what we’re calling pride. Many Singaporeans prefer a clear path to success and don’t want to take financial risks when it comes to career choices. They feel comfortable being part of a tribe—belonging to a religion, an extended family or a sports team. They don’t mind following the rules and, in fact, find comfort in a clearly defined sense of right and wrong. Notwithstanding Singapore’s strict laws, harsh punishments and penchant for hard work, residents of the island currently have the world’s lowest negative affect, which means those who live there experience low levels of anger, stress and worry.

Related: 10 Happiness Practices From Around the World


This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Buettner is a best-selling author, public speaker and National Geographic Fellow.