Looking for the happiest place on Earth? No, it's not in Anaheim, California. The world's reserves of joy and well-being seem to be concentrated in Northern Europe, according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network's 2013 World Happiness Report.
Take a look at the infographic below for the world's happiest countries, and how global happiness has changed over the past five years.
The findings above were calculated by looking at the state of well-being in 156 nations across the globe, using analysis from experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis, and national statistics to make a case for why well-being should be considered a measure of national development. Happiness isn't only beneficial for individual mental and physical health and corporate bottom lines -- it may also contribute to the progress and development of entire nations, according to the authors of the report.
Last year's United Nations report was the first large-scale survey on the state of global happiness. This year's findings were released two weeks prior to the United Nations General Assembly, calling on leaders and policymakers to consider happiness and well-being a measure of social and economic development. The report will provide guidance for policymakers on including well-being in national decision-making.
"There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being," Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to the UN Secretary General and co-editor of the report, said in a press release. "More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world's well-being and sustainable development."
Many countries showed improvements in well-being over the course of the five-year study period, Professor John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia, co-editor of the report, told the Globe & Mail.
"Life is getting better in unsung ways in many places -- enough so that the world is slowly becoming a happier place," he said.
Still, the world's happiest countries are largely concentrated in Northern Europe. These Nordic nations ranked highest on the survey's six happiness metrics of real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity. It's not the first time the Danes have claimed the title of world's happiest nation -- an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report last year found that Denmark had the highest life satisfaction ratings, with 88 percent of citizens responding with positive emotions when asked, "How are you feeling today?"
Canada, coming in below Sweden, earned its spot largely due to life expectancy, high median incomes and strong community ties, according to the survey.
But the U.S. lagged behind, coming in at 17th, just below Mexico. The placement echoes other recent findings on national well-being: The United States slipped from 10th place to 12th in the Legatum Prosperity Index's list of the world's happiest countries, with declining rankings in the realms of governance, personal freedom, and entrepreneurship and opportunity.
Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.