Why Is Switzerland The Happiest Country In The World?

4 December 2015

Well, obviously there’s Swiss chocolate for starters, but is a serotonin boost courtesy of Switzerland’s superior chocolatiers really responsible for the happiness of an entire nation? Oh my Lindt, is it really that simple? According to the 2015 World Happiness Report, Switzerland topped the list of 158 nations ranked for the economic and scientific measures that are deemed to make people feel content, such as GDP per capita, social support, a healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, and generosity.

In case you were wondering, Australia came in at number 10, just under New Zealand at number 9 and after Iceland (2), Denmark (3), Norway (4), Canada (5), Finland (6), Netherlands (7) and Sweden (8).

So why are those Swiss so happy? I asked my cousin Melissa Madeira, an Australian expat living in Switzerland, to share the Swiss national secrets on happiness.

 Life really is like a box of chocolates in Switzerland. (Image: Shutterstock)

1. Chocolate

Swiss chocolate is synonymous with quality confectionery and as everyone who’s ever justified eating all the Tim Tams knows, eating chocolate releases endorphins into the brain and endorphins make you happy. While we’re on the subject, cheese – that other foodstuff the Swiss are famous for – contains tryptophan, an amino acid that’s been shown to lower and relieve stress as well as making you sleepy. Stress-free and happy? They’re on to something here.

 No need to apologise for this cheesy pic, Switzerland! (Image: Shutterstock)

2. Excellent health

Despite the cheese and chocolate, the Swiss keep it lean as with one of the lowest obesity rates in Europe at 10 percent, compared to 28.3 percent of Australians, according to the OECD.

"The Swiss, in general, are quite sporty and are usually outdoors partaking in some sort of sport," Melissa notes.

Switzerland also has some of the lowest appointment waiting times in the world, plus the International Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) are both headquartered in Geneva.

 Time is money at the famous Geneva flower clock. (Image: Shutterstock)

3. Money, money, money

That famous song may be an Abba tune (Swedes), but it certainly rings true for the Swiss too – they’re most franc-full! A recent Le News article notes the Swiss median salary is around 75 percent higher than median pay in both the UK and US, and that the gap between the top 10 percent of salary earners and bottom 10 percent has shrunk.  For visitors, there’s no getting away from the fact that Switzerland is expensive, says Melissa. However, the GDP per capita in Switzerland ranks the land of cheese and chocolate as number seven on the list of highest GDP countries per capita, and meaning the Swiss can afford that precision Swiss timepiece or two.


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 The Swiss flag is a symbol of national pride. (Image: Shutterstock)

4. Neutrality

Switzerland is famously neutral and has not been involved in a war since 1847, although it does have mandatory military service.

“The thing I love most about Switzerland is that I feel safe and you really do feel secure,” Melissa says. "Children walk to school on their own from a young age and there is no concern that something bad will happen. Crime levels are low, and we aren't seen as a threat so the possibility of any terrorism occurring here is relatively slim at this stage."

Melissa mentions that most Swiss home have bunkers as a result of Cold War concerns, and that Switzerland has enough nuclear fallout shelters to accommodate its entire population, which is plenty peace of mind for the neutral Swiss! Hopefully they’ve stockpiled that chocolate...

 With an outdoorsy lifestyle and a stunning landscape, what's not to love? (Image: Shutterstock)

5. Lifestyles of the Swiss

Life sure is sweet in Switzerland. There’s a sense of community and pride and Melissa says the common belief that Switzerland is safe and clean is true!

“Most places are very clean and everything runs on time," she agrees.

"The other thing I love about Switzerland that makes me happy is the location and weather," she adds. "The weather also plays a big part in general wellbeing. We have beautiful summers spent by the lake and beach, hiking in the mountains and cycling. In winter, we have the ski slopes on our doorstop. Basically we have the best of both worlds - in every season there is something fun and interesting to look forward to."

 Just meditating about life on a Swiss mountain. Om... (Image: Shutterstock)

6. Live forever

So not only are the people of Switzerland, healthy, wealthy and wise to stay out of conflicts (plus, happy = chocolate), they are also going to live forever. According to WHO, the average life expectancy in Switzerland is 83 years, which is the same as Australia. More time for chocolate!

2015 World Happiness Report Ranking of Happiness

  1. Switzerland

  2. Iceland

  3. Denmark

  4. Norway

  5. Canada

  6. Finland

  7. Netherlands

  8. Sweden

  9. New Zealand

  10. Australia

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Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Switzerland.

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Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.