The secret to happiness? Part of it could be two-wheelers.
Denmark, renowned for its bicycle culture, is officially the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report Update 2016, released Wednesday by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations. The country bumped Switzerland down a rank from the No. 1 spot by just a few decimals.
This year's World Happiness Report is written by a group of individual experts who evaluated 156 countries' well-being and lifestyle by measuring universally valuable constructs, like income, social support, having the freedom to make life choices and healthy life expectancy.
For the first time the report, which launched in 2012, found that one key to a country's happiness is the equality of happiness. "[The researchers] now argue that the inequality of well-being provides a broader measure of inequality," the authors wrote. "They find that people are happier living in societies where there is less inequality of happiness."
Denmark encourages healthy living in a number of ways. As mentioned, bikes make the country go 'round: 50 percent of Copenhageners commute by bike every day, and there are actually more bikes than people. We've learned that America's popular way of getting around by car can actually contribute to weight gain, bad moods and stress. Bicycling does not do any of this.
Denmark expands its healthy and happy principles way beyond its citizens' daily commutes. In a 2013 blog for The Huffington Post, Senator Bernie Sanders commended Denmark for its lifestyle practices, and conceded that the U.S. could learn a lot from the country. Since the U.S. is valued as the 13th happiest country, Sanders is probably on to something.
"In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a 'solidarity system' that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair," Sanders wrote. Denmark's universal, free and high quality health care is, in part, responsible for its citizens' overall well-being, Sanders argued.
Sanders also highlighted Denmark's country-wide four weeks of paid leave for mothers before giving birth. Once the baby arrives, women are given another 14 weeks of paid time off. "Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child's life," Sanders wrote. "The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers."
Indeed, these are rights many Americans are currently campaigning for. The U.S. mandates unpaid parental leave, considered "the worst maternity leave laws on earth," by some.
The good news is that by analyzing many lifestyles, we're learning how to foster global and national happiness. It'll take change and time to adapt to different ways of life, but it's progress.
Curious which other countries ranked high on the list? Check out the 10 happiest and least happiest countries below:
The 10 Happiest Countries:
8. New Zealand
The 10 Least Happy Countries: