Happiest Countries in the Middle East 2022

Data indicates that people living in Middle Eastern countries tend to be either very happy or very unhappy.


In the span of a few years the Middle East has been hit by a major collapse in oil prices, anti-government protests in several countries and, then, Covid-19. Against the backdrop of these recent challenges, the region is laden with a history of longstanding problems: wars and ethnic conflicts, unresolved religious disputes, and humanitarian disasters.

The 2022 World Happiness Report paints a picture of extremes in the Middle East: on the one hand, some very rich and quite content nations and, on the other, some nations so unhappy that they are either buried at the bottom of the global ranking (Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon) or entirely excluded (Syria, for which no evaluation is provided).

War is probably the single worst ingredient for human happiness and the report has pointed out countless times over the years that wealth in and of itself doesn’t do the trick either. Along with income, social support in times of need, healthy life expectancy, absence of corruption in government, freedom to make life choices and generosity towards others are the other key variables that the researchers of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network of the United Nations use in their report to assess life satisfaction.

A balance of all these factors provides a better shot at overall happiness than only a few good ones to the detriment of the others and it is that balance that many Middle Eastern nations lack. 


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Agriculture, fishing and trading pearls: these used to be the economic mainstays of this Persian Gulf nation. Then oil was discovered in the 1950s and everything changed. Today, its highly cosmopolitan population enjoys considerable wealth. Traditional Islamic architecture is mixed with modern skyscrapers and opulent shopping centers and workers come from all over the world lured by tax-free salaries and year-round sunshine (to wit, only about 20% of the people living in the country are actually locally-born).

The United Arab Emirates is a happy country—mostly. It gains back one spot in the United Nations’ global report after dropping by four last year. With roughly 10 million residents, the emirate was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and, much like the rest of the world, it has yet to fully recover. The non-oil economy—tourism in particular—was heavily impacted and migrant wage workers—who generally report much lower levels of happiness compared to native nationals to begin with—often found themselves suddenly unemployed and without any safety net. As the report has highlighted many times over the years, the happiest countries tend to also be the most generous and equal.


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This tiny island nation in the Persian Gulf knows something about happiness: since 2013, when Bahrain stood at 79th place in the global happiness ranking, it climbed 58 spots to number 21 globally.

With a population of just 1.7 million and wealth based on both oil and natural gas resources as well as banking and tourism, Bahrain is one of the richest nations in the world. But the country’s wealth is not new, so what caused its rapid ascent in the happiness rankings? Over the past few years, the government greatly expanded social programs supporting employment, equality and general wellbeing. As a result, Bahrain scores well when it comes to supporting people and families in times of need, healthy life expectancy and freedom to make life choices. What governments do and don’t do has a major impact on determining the happiness of their people and Bahrain’s government has stepped up its game.


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Last year, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel managed to gain two spots and reach the number twelve position in the World Happiness Report. While there is evidence that high infection and death rates within a country do not change significantly the overall happiness score, people’s perception of how their country has handled the pandemic can contribute to a rise in wellbeing, and Israel did a great job.

So much so that in the newest edition of the ranking Israel earns three extra spots, vaulting for the first time into the top 10. But it is also worth noting that since the index was released for the first time a decade ago Israel never slipped below the 14th spot—in other words, it is one of the most consistently happy countries in the world.

Many, over the years, have wondered how this nation of 9.2 million—surrounded by hostile neighbors and perpetually embroiled in conflict—could truly be so happy.  Easy answer: happiness is not just determined by the presence or the lack of one given element. Israel is a rich and vibrant country where people can rely on strong community ties and feel they can decide how to pursue their goals in life.


Global Rank


Regional Rank



9 1 Israel
21 2 Bahrain
24 3 United Arab Emirates
25 4 Saudi Arabia
50 5 Kuwait
107 6 Iraq
110 7 Iran
122 8 Palestinian Territories
132 9 Yemen
134 10 Jordan
145 11 Lebanon
Source: The UN’s 2022 World Happiness Report.