Last week, the World Happiness Report, an innovative survey of the state of global happiness, was published for the third time since 2012. This year, Switzerland was deemed the world's happiest country. Switzerland jumping to the top spot shouldn't come as much of a surprise; in 2013, the last time the report was compiled, the small country had the number three spot behind Denmark and Norway. These countries still rank in the top five happiest countries in the world, but Switzerland, for the first time, was found to be the happiest of all.
Measuring Happiness on a National Scale
How does the World Happiness Report determine if a country's citizens are happy or not? It focuses on six main factors that affect a person's quality of life in their country: levels of gross domestic product per capita, life expectancy, personal generosity, social support, freedom to make life choices, and perceptions of government and business corruption. The survey puts little emphasis on momentary happiness, such as how a person feels in the moment, and much more on overall life satisfaction.
In some ways, it might be a surprise that Switzerland has been successful enough to be home to the happiest people in the world. It's a small, landlocked country with few natural resources. It has four official languages and has historically been surrounded by warring neighbors. Nevertheless, its citizens are obviously highly satisfied with their lives, and there are quite a few theories that attempt to explain why.
Although only one of the six main factors that influence overall happiness is related to money, around the world, gross domestic product per capita and life satisfaction are heavily and positively correlated. Switzerland has a high per capita income, a low unemployment rate, and a relatively low government debt. Outside of monetary factors, however, Switzerland cares about its people. Switzerland, according to the World Economic Forum's 2013 Human Capital Report, invests more in the health, education, and talent of its people than any other country in the world. The Swiss have an excellent health care system that results in citizens that are not just physically but also emotionally and mentally healthy, and they work hard to educate and train their workforce. Of course, it's important to note that, at least in Switzerland's case, caring about and investing in its people has translated into a competent workforce that is competitive in the global market and resulted in a higher gross domestic product per capita.
Visiting the Happiest Country in the World
Would you like to see for yourself just what makes the Swiss so happy? Booking a car rental in Switzerland and traveling by car is the best way to discover the country and live like the locals do. There will be plenty to make you happy on your trip: Switzerland is famous for its chocolates, luxury watches, and ski resorts, all of which are great sources of glee for so many of us. You could start by renting a car in Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, whose cobblestone streets and medieval architecture made it a logical choice for a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From there, you could travel to Geneva for its wide variety of museums and restaurants or take in the nightlife in Zurich. In addition, seven of the top ten happiest countries in the world are located in Western Europe, so if you travel to Switzerland but still need some more happiness in your life, you could get a one-way car rental in Europe to seek out even more bliss.