Obviously, when it comes to suffering, you would expect the poorer countries to be negatively impacted the most. And in many cases, you would be right. We recently looked at the countries with the greatest degree of suffering: Most of the countries on this list - at the opposite, fortunate end of the suffering scale - are the wealthier, more developed nations although that's certainly not the case across the board. Some of the least suffering nations might even surprise you because they're actually some of the poorest, and most corrupt nations in the world. If anything, this proves that while money may be able to buy some amount of happiness, there's far more to it than just that.
So how is suffering determined? Gallup conducted surveys, asking people to rank their level of happiness from zero to ten. A ranking of four or below for present conditions, as well as the outlook for the next five years was determined to be someone who's suffering. The percentages listed here are the percentage of people in each country found to be suffering. Not a single country on this list had greater than 2% of their overall population considered to be suffering.
While this is a list of ten countries, there's actually a total of 17 listed on the Gallup survey as having 1-2% suffering. The other countries on the list include Libya, Kuwait, Netherlands, Thailand, New Zealand, Canada, and the Somaliland region, which goes to show you... these countries are as different as can be.
For a point of reference, the United States wasn't on the list of countries with the least amount of suffering as they came in at 4%. These findings came from the Gallup 2013 survey results.
6 Denmark - 2%
Danes are a relatively happy bunch, and they've been ranked as the happiest country on Earth several times for a few reasons: One reason could be that Denmark has a strong support system for parents and families. In the U.S., a woman can expect around 10.3 weeks of maternity leave, while Danish families receive 52 weeks of parental leave. Mothers can take 18 weeks off, while fathers get 2 weeks, at up to 100% of their salary. But the support doesn't stop when the parents return to work, because Danish families have access to low-cost and, sometimes, even free childcare. The country is also inclusive and welcoming: The state views health care as a civil right, gender equality is a priority, and Danes have a strong sense of social responsibility in general, prioritizing social security and safety for everyone.
5 Australia - 2%
It's little surprise to find 'down under' on our list. After all, the beaches and barbeque lifestyle would make anyone happy. But there's more to it than that, and the big reason might be that while the rest of the developed world suffered through a recession Australia has been only minimally affected. Unemployment is low, among the lowest of the OECD nations, while the minimum wage stands at nearly $16 an hour. While banks in the U.S and Europe required bailouts, not a single financial institution in Australia did, and their credit rating is a solid AAA by all three of the major credit agencies. In addition to economic health, the country can also boast great health care, low crime rates, a clean environment, a high level of civic engagement, and access to a quality education as well as a good work/life balance.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has gone one step further in making sure the citizens of his country are happy by creating the new Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness. The agency's focus will center on the anti-poverty programs created by the late President Hugo Chavez. Venezuela's inclusion on this list may come as a surprise to many considering the fact that the international media does, largely, paint the country in a dire light but surveys and opinion polls on the upcoming elections confirm that a great many Venezuelans support the country's policies. And they seem to be working, as so few of the country's citizens report daily suffering.
4 Switzerland - 2%
Switzerland is a small country with relatively few natural resources. But the biggest resource it does have is people and the country has done what it can to invest in those people. This has led to a competitive, highly innovative economy - one that adopts new technology rapidly. The country has excellent health care and top-notch education, which are often pointed to as models for the rest of the world to follow. These systems are both very important factors in creating an educated, healthy and suffering-free population in general.
3 Nigeria - 1%
When most people think of Nigeria - a country in the world's poorest continent - they often think of poverty, corruption and crooked officials. Those factors make the country sound like a place where people would suffer more often than not. But take a closer look and you'll see a sense of optimism that would astound most people. As one Nigerian wrote for The Guardian, “...while the rest of the world believes they've got a book in them, most Nigerians believe they've got a million quid in them, too.” They're working toward happiness and success at all times, and it's perhaps this attitude that reduces the daily suffering of the country's citizens despite challenging external circumstances.
The UAE has some of the highest levels of per capita income in the world, which usually means that many of the residents are not experiencing poverty. But not only has the country done well economically, it has also made unprecedented advancements in its health and education sectors and ranks at the top of many lists, such as the citizens' confidence in its political leaders, the efficiency of its markets and containing the effects of inflation.
In Norway, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is $31,459, which is quite a bit higher than the OECD average of $23,047. Obviously, money is only one indicator of happiness, but Norway also ranks high for having a relatively healthy work-life balance as well. This means that people are able to live comfortably, while still having time for hobbies, family and other positive activities. The government's wealth and its smooth social policies serve to reduce suffering to almost nothing in this peaceful country.
While Sweden does suffer from some income inequality, the country still has relatively healthy employment numbers. According to the OECD Better Life Index, 74% of people aged 15 to 64 have a job. Even with jobs, only 1% of employees work very long hours, which is much less than the OECD average of 9%. This means that Swedes are able to enjoy a greater life-work balance than many other countries. And as with other countries here at the top, Sweden enjoys a strong sense of community and there are high levels of civic participation, helping to increase well-being and reduce suffering.
2 Qatar - 1%
Money may not be able to buy happiness... Oh wait, who are we kidding? In most cases, yes, money does usually equal a happier country because it means less people are (hopefully) living in poverty. Qatar is regularly ranked as the richest country in the world. In fact, none of its population lives below the poverty line and less than 1% of its citizens are unemployed, which is a pretty definitive factor in reducing poverty.
1 Iceland - 1%
Iceland may be a cold and dark country, but the citizens have been ranked as some of the happiest in the world many times over. When it comes to employment, Iceland is well above the OECD average with 79% of people aged 15 to 64 employed. They also have a life expectancy of 82 years, low levels of air pollution and good quality of water. Iceland also supports a strong sense of community, and according to the OECD Better Life Index, 98% of people believe they know someone they can rely on in a time of need. With such a strong social structure, a peaceful environment and a comfortable economy it's no surprise Icelanders rarely experience significant suffering.