Ranked fourth in each of the last two years and second in 2013, Norway has leaped to the top of the social happiness list. Scores are calculated by measuring factors such as levels of caring, freedom to make life decisions, generosity, good governance, honesty, health and income.
The 155 countries in the World Happiness Report, produced since 2012 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, are also assessed on satisfaction with things like employment, income inequality, life expectancy, GDP per capita, lack of corruption in government and business, and social support.
The report is compiled using Gallup polls, which ask people to evaluate various aspects of their lives on a scale from 0 to 10.
Denmark, the happiest country in the 2016 and 2013 editions of the list, slid to second place, with Iceland and Switzerland completing the top four.
All of the top four countries did well in the main factors considered to support happiness – caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance – the World Happiness Report said on its website.
Norway’s other Scandinavian neighbour, Sweden, stayed at tenth on the list, while the United States dropped from 13th to 14th. The United Kingdom meanwhile was rated 19th.
One reason for the Nordic countries' good performance in the happiness report is the sense of community in societies, according to its lead author.
“It's the human things that matter. If the riches make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy relationship between people, is it worth it? The material can stand in the way of the human,” John Helliwell, the lead author of the report and an economist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, told the Associated Press (AP).
Although Denmark lost a title it has retained regularly in recent years, there were no sour grapes amongst happiness researchers in Copenhagen.
“Good for them. I don't think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness,” Meik Wiking, chief executive officer of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, who wasn't part of the new study, told AP.
“What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good,” Wiking said.
The study of happiness has become an academic field that has gained focus in recent years – the World Happiness Report contains an entire chapter on relative data for policymakers.
The makers of the report say on their website that it “continues to gain global recognition as governments, organizations and civil society increasingly use happiness indicators to inform their policy-making decisions”.
Norway was also recently ranked as the tenth most attractive destination for international students and the second for careers in a separate, European, study.
The happiest countries in the world
8) New Zealand