Choosing the best country to live in is a highly subjective process, as different sources may have differing thoughts on what constitutes "best". To some, it may be overall financial stability. To others, it may be climate, life expectancy, the prevalence of green living practices, or the price of beer.
In an effort to obtain an objective evaluation of the best countries in which to live, many analysts turn to the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI) or the Gallup World Happiness Report. Both of these are aggregated metrics which collect a wide assortment of variables, from GDP per capita to unemployment to personal freedoms and more, and combine them into a single score.
Top 10 Countries in Which to Live (United Nations' Human Development Report 2021/22):
- Switzerland — .962
- Norway — .961
- Iceland — .959
- Hong Kong — .952
- Australia — .951
- Denmark — .948
- Sweden — .947
- Ireland — .945
- Germany — .942
- Netherlands — .941
Compiled by the United Nations, the Human Development Index is arguably the world's most comprehensive and practical analysis of each country's level of development and overall quality of life. The annual HDI report compiles dozens of metrics and ultimately determines which countries are statistically considered the best in which to live.
Several alternate methods of determining the best countries to live in also exist. For example, the US News and World Report covers quality of life in its annual best countries list, and outlets such as CEO World frequently compile their own lists of the countries with the highest quality of life, which often equates to being a best place to live. Another high-profile alternative is the World Happiness Report, which takes a statistical approach similar to that of the Human Development Index, but with a more personalized survey-based approach that focuses more on personal feelings than economic and societal performance indicators.
Top 10 Countries in Which to Live (World Happiness Report 2022):
- Finland — 7.821
- Denmark — 7.636
- Iceland — 7.557
- Switzerland — 7.512
- Netherlands — 7.415
- Luxembourg — 7.404
- Sweden — 7.384
- Norway — 7.365
- Israel — 7.364
- New Zealand — 7.200
Profiles of the Best Countries to Live In
The people of Switzerland enjoy impressive health, including long life expectancies (82 years for males and 85.9 for females) and a relative lack of fatal diseases. Switzerland also boasts very high wealth per person (measurable as GNI per capita) and its gross domestic product per capita ranks among the world's highest. While Switzerland's cost of living is high, so too is its overall standard of living.
Norway shares many of Switzerland's best qualities, including very high per-capita wealth and a comprehensive and efficient national healthcare system--which, in Norway, delivers medical attention to all patients regardless of their financial status. Norway frequently ranks as one of the world's most democratic countries and has one of the lowest crime rates](/country-rankings/crime-rate-by-country) of any nation.
Denmark ranks high in "social trust", which measures people's trust in one another, their government, and public institutions such as police and hospitals. Moreover, health care and education (including college/university) are completely free to all citizens. Denmark is both a global leader in industries including shipping, design, and architecture and also a green-forward country. Even in the capital city of Copenhagen, bicycles often outnumber automobiles, and the country is a global leader in the development of new methods of living cleaner and greener. Finally, the Danes have given the world the concept of "hygge" (pronounced "hooga"), a warmly human term for time spent away from the hustle and bustle, peacefully relaxing and appreciating life's smaller joys, often with family and/or friends.
The people of Iceland enjoy long life expectancies and generous access to universal healthcare. Iceland ranks high in several measures of social equality and democracy, runs almost entirely on green energy, and ranked first in the 2022 Global Peace Index, which tracks the world's most peaceful countries.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is a major international financial center with a high quality of life. Hong Kong has very low taxes (the highest income tax rate is 17%), making it attractive for businessmen. Additionally, like many of the other countries on this list, Hong Kong has very low crime rates despite being a densely populated urban area. Hong Kong is occasionally cited as the perfect blend of Eastern and Western culture, as well as of tradition and innovation, with colonial buildings, temples, and ancient festivals existing side-by-side with modern public transportation and glass skyscrapers.
One of Europe's most densely populated countries, the Netherlands is also one of the world's leading exporters of agricultural products by value despite the fact that the country as a whole is barely larger than the US state of Maryland. The Netherlands is also known for its progressive philosophies in matters ranging from science to society. For instance, the country is a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and in 2001 became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
Australia earns accolades for its emphasis on education and the importance of going to school. Australian culture places a healthy emphasis not only on attending school, but also on performing exceptionally and taking pride in academic marks. The average Australian attends school for twenty years, and many attend at least two years of undergraduate college. Education in Australia accounts for more than five percent of the country’s overall GDP. Australia is also known for its high quality of life, economic and political freedoms, and excellent healthcare system.
Sweden has a strong social welfare system, providing top-notch healthcare and free education. Sweden’s social model focuses on growth, equality, freedom, and security. Sweden also provides excellent conditions for workers, such as a minimum of five weeks vacation and a government organization that supports entrepreneurs looking to start a company. Lastly, like the other Nordic countries, Sweden has very low rates of violent crime (1.14 incidents per 100,000 people) and ranks well for overall health and wellbeing.
Like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland, Ireland ranks as one of the most democratic countries in the world. Ireland also boasts respectably low rates of violent crime and joins several other high-livability countries on the list of countries with the highest levels of human freedom. In 2022, Ireland ranked third on the list of the most peaceful countries in the world.
Much like Australia, Germany places great value on education. Nearly the entire population of Germany has received higher education, with 96% of people in Germany undertaking some form of post-graduate schooling or university classes (which are tuition-free). The German economy is the largest in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The country also offers universal health care and has the third-most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, behind only China and Italy.