Surprising Things the World’s 5 Happiest Countries Have in Common

If you’re looking for the key to happiness, here are the five things you really need, according to science.

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Group of friends enjoying party and throwing confetti. Friends having fun at rooftop party.
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The Happiness Factor: What do the world’s happiest countries have in common?

True happiness always seems elusive—but it may be that we’re overthinking it, according to the 2018 World Happiness Report. Researchers picked the top five happiest countries—Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland—and found that they have these five surprising things in common.

(Psst—Norway also tops the list of destinations recommended by the author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die!)

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Income is important a country's reported happiness
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1. Income

More isn’t always better when it comes to money, according to the report. People need to broaden their horizon beyond the digits on their paycheck, the researchers found. A powerful indicator of happiness in the top five countries was equal access to health care and education—these are part of income, the report suggests, and they add to a sense of satisfaction and contentment.

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The happiness factor includes high life expectancy
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2. High life expectancy

Knowing that you’ll be able to live longer and age well is nice; on average, these five countries have the highest life expectancy in the world, partly because of their access to healthcare and progressive treatments. However, noted the report, “there is much evidence that those who have happier lives are likely to live longer, be more trusting, be more cooperative, and be generally better able to meet life’s demands.”

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The happiness factor: Freedom of choice
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3. Freedom of choice

Being able to make your own choices in work, relationships, and lifestyle is crucial to happiness, according to the report.

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The happiest countries in the world have trust in common
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4. Trust

Defined as the inhabitants’ faith in government and each other, trust played a major role in happiness. Governments scored higher if they had a transparent political process with little evidence of corruption, and they provided easy access to strong social programs like health care, social welfare, home-purchasing assistance, and more. Trust in fellow citizens and immigrants climbed as crime statistics fell: Unsurprisingly, low risk of robberies, assault, and vandalism helps mitigate stress and makes people happier.

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Make happiness a priority
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5. Setting the right priorities

Surveys of the top five countries found that people prioritized education, work, mental well-being, and family life far ahead of concerns like personal status, income, and consumerism.

Next: This is the least-visited country in Europe—and it’s absolutely stunning!

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest