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Charted: The World’s Most Populous Countries (1973–2023)

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Data visualization showing the world's top 10 most populous countries over the past 50 years

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The World’s Most Populous Countries (1973–2023)

Humankind is now double the size it was in 1973.

Of course, that growth has been far from uniform, and the ranking of the world’s most populous countries continues to evolve.

Using the latest data available from the United Nations, we’ve looked at which countries have the largest share of the planet’s eight billion people.

The Top 10 Most Populous Countries

Here are the countries shown above, including how much they’ve grown over the past 50 years:

CountryPopulation (1973)Population (2023)Change (1973–2023)
🇨🇳 China881,652,0841,425,671,353544,019,269
🇮🇳 India596,107,4871,428,627,666832,520,179
🇺🇸 United States207,314,772339,996,567132,681,795
🇷🇺 Russia132,191,636144,444,36012,252,724
🇮🇩 Indonesia124,709,060277,534,118152,825,058
🇯🇵 Japan109,679,473123,294,51613,615,043
🇧🇷 Brazil103,666,906216,422,450112,755,544
🇩🇪 Germany78,667,47383,294,6344,627,161
🇧🇩 Bangladesh71,144,816172,954,325101,809,509
🇵🇰 Pakistan64,285,630240,485,666176,200,036
🇳🇬 Nigeria59,605,450223,804,636164,199,186
🇲🇽 Mexico55,228,202128,455,56373,227,361

The numbers above highlight the extreme variance in growth for these world’s most populous countries. While Germany has grown by just 6% over the past 50 years, Pakistan and Nigeria have nearly quadrupled their populations.

Half a century ago, there were only six countries with populations of over 100 million. Today, there are 15 countries past that mark, with Vietnam positioned to hit that milestone next.

The Top 20 Most Populous Countries

Things get even more interesting when we examine the top 20 most populous countries over the same time period.

CountryPopulation (1973)Rank (1973)Population (2023)Rank (2023)
🇨🇳 China881,652,08411,425,671,3532
🇮🇳 India596,107,48721,428,627,6661
🇺🇸 United States207,314,7723339,996,5673
🇷🇺Russia132,191,6364144,444,3609
🇮🇩 Indonesia124,709,0605277,534,1184
🇯🇵 Japan109,679,4736123,294,51612
🇧🇷 Brazil103,666,9067216,422,4507
🇩🇪 Germany78,667,473883,294,63419
🇧🇩 Bangladesh71,144,8169172,954,3258
🇵🇰 Pakistan64,285,63010240,485,6665
🇳🇬 Nigeria59,605,45011223,804,6366
🇬🇧 United Kingdom56,166,6301267,736,79821
🇲🇽 Mexico55,228,20213128,455,56310
🇮🇹 Italy54,379,5871458,870,76325
🇫🇷 France51,814,0771564,756,58623
🇺🇦 Ukraine48,301,5481636,744,63541
🇻🇳 Vietnam44,891,2861798,858,94716
🇵🇭 Philippines40,406,23218117,337,36613
🇹🇭 Thailand38,873,0651971,801,28120
🇹🇷 Turkey38,028,2362085,816,19218
🇪🇬 Egypt37,120,77821112,716,59914
🇮🇷 Iran30,981,9032589,172,76817
🇪🇹 Ethiopia30,694,32126126,527,06411
🇨🇩 DRC21,853,90832102,262,81215

Looking back 50 years ago, Nigeria was the lone African nation in the top 20. Today, it is joined by Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – all of which have experienced staggering population growth.

African nations are expected to lead population growth over the next few decades. By 2100, one quarter of the world’s people are expected to be African.

Europe is the flip side of this equation. Back in 1973, there were six European countries in this top list. Today, only Russia and Germany remain, with the latter country soon to fall out of the top 20 ranking.

Ukraine, which was shrinking, is expected to fall to at least 41st place due to the turmoil surrounding the Russian invasion of the country. Since the invasion began in February 2022, nearly 14 million border crossings have been recorded from Ukraine to other countries.

How Big Will Populations Get?

Once India becomes the world’s largest country, it will likely remain so for many decades in the future, peaking in the 2060s (unless there are substantial changes in projected growth rates). India’s peak population will stand at around 1.7 billion people.

The world’s population is expected to peak later, around the 2080s. Humanity’s peak population is expected to be about 10.5 billion.

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Countries

Ranked: Countries Where Youth are the Most Unhappy, Relative to Older Generations

Conventional wisdom says that young adults (those below 30) tend to be the happiest demographic—but this is not true for these countries.

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Countries with the Biggest Happiness Gaps Between Generations

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” — Tom Bodett

Measuring happiness is tricky business, more so when taking into account how different regions, cultures, and faiths define it. Nevertheless, the World Happiness Report attempts to distill being happy into a single score out of 10, and then ranks countries by their average score.

We’ve visualized the high-level findings from the latest happiness report in this series of maps. However, the report also dives deeper into other significant trends in the data, such as a growing disparity in happiness between age groups within countries themselves.

In the chart above, we list countries by the biggest gaps in happiness ranks between young adults (<30) and older adults (60+). A higher number indicates a larger gap, and that the youth are far unhappier than their older counterparts.

Where are Youth Unhappier than Older Adults?

Mauritius ranks first on this list, with a massive 57 place gap between older adult and youth happiness. The 1.26 million-inhabited island nation briefly reached high income status in 2020, but the pandemic hit hard, hurting its key tourism sector, and affecting jobs.

The country’s youth unemployment rate spiked to close to 25% that year, but has since been on the decline. Like residents on many similarly-populated islands, the younger demographic often moves abroad in search of more opportunities.

RankCountryYouth Happiness RankOlder Adult
Happiness Rank
Happiness Gap
1🇲🇺 Mauritius852857
2🇺🇸 U.S.621052
3🇨🇦 Canada58850
4🇺🇿 Uzbekistan712249
5🇨🇳 China793049
6🇯🇵 Japan733637
7🇲🇳 Mongolia865333
8🇩🇿 Algeria936231
9🇱🇾 Libya805030
10🇸🇬 Singapore542628
11🇰🇿 Kazakhstan694227
12🇵🇭 Philippines704327
13🇱🇦 Laos1047727
14🇩🇪 Germany472126
15🇪🇸 Spain552926
16🇲🇹 Malta573126
17🇧🇭 Bahrain775126
18🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan815526
19🇲🇷 Mauritania1199326
20🇹🇩 Chad1209426

Conventional wisdom says, and data somewhat correlates, that young adults (those below 30) tend to be the happiest demographic. Happiness then decreases through middle age and starts increasing around 60. However, the above countries are digressing from the pattern, with older generations being much happier than young adults.

That older generations are happier, by itself, is not a bad thing. However, that younger adults are so much unhappier in the same country can point to several unique stresses that those aged below 30 are facing.

For example, in the U.S. and Canada—both near the top of this list—many young adults feel like they have been priced out of owning a home: a once key metric of success.

Climate anxieties are also high, with worries about the future of the world they’ll inhabit. Finally, persistent economic inequities are also weighing on the younger generation, with many in that cohort feeling like they will never be able to afford to retire.

All of this comes alongside a rising loneliness epidemic, where those aged 18–25 report much higher rates of loneliness than the general population.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The World Happiness Report which leverages data from the Gallup World Poll.

Methodology: A nationally representative group of approximately 1,000 people per country are asked to evaluate their life on a scale of 0–10. Scores are averaged across generations per country over three years. Countries are ranked by their scores out of 10.

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