What are the world's happiest nations?

How do financial instability, politics and economic development impact on our happiness?

If you're looking for a better quality of life and greater happiness, then northern Europe is the way forward, but you should steer clear of anywhere suffering the ill-effects of the global financial crisis.

According to the 2013 World Happiness Report, released on Monday by Columbia University's Earth Institute, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden are the world's happiest countries.

In a survey of 156 countries worldwide, the researchers say that the United States is 17th in terms of overall citizen happiness, lagging behind Canada in 6th place, Australia in 10th, and Mexico in 16th. However, the U.S. is a 'happier place' to be than the United Kingdom, which ranked in 22nd.

Other major nations included Japan in 43rd place, Russia in 68th place and China with a low general happiness rating at 93rd.

In comparison, citizens in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Benin and Togo are all the least satisfied with their lives.

Italy, Spain and Portugal, hit hard by the economic recession, plummeted in the rankings between 2010 - 2012, and recent political strife in Egypt, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia meant that citizens are far less happy than they once were. On a happiness scale of 1 - 10, Egypt averaged 4.3 in 2012, compared to 5.4 in 2007.

The research states that these losses are due to far more than simply income reductions, and center on a citizen's belief in their own freedom to make "key life choices."

The report says:

"It is important to balance economic measures of societal progress with measures of subjective well-being to ensure that economic progress leads to broad improvements across life domains, not just greater economic capacity."

Via: CNN | Earth Institute

Image credit: Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com