Finland is still the happiest country in the world

The UN’s seventh annual World Happiness Report ranks the countries of the world on how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. Finland ranked first from 156 countries. Finland was joined in the top five by the other Nordic countries Denmark, Iceland and Norway. Sweden was seventh.

The annual report is based on survey results from the preceding three years, although the surveys are not arranged in every country in the assessment on an annual basis.

– The World Happiness Report has proven to be an indispensable tool for policymakers looking to better understand what makes people happy and thereby to promote the wellbeing of their citizenry, said Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of SDSN and the Earth Institute’s Center on Sustainable Development

– Time and again we see the reasons for wellbeing include good social support networks, social trust, honest governments, safe environments, and healthy lives, Sachs continues.

Four of the six factors used by the report to explain a country’s happiness are different aspects of the social environment. They include having someone to count on, having a sense of freedom to make key life decisions, generosity, and trust. The report looks at how inequality plays in a person’s happiness and how good social environments can help to mitigate the effects of inequality.

Why the Nordic Countries Are Constantly Among the Happiest in the World?

From 2013 until today, every time the World Happiness Report (WHR) has published its annual ranking of countries, the five Nordic countries – Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland – have all been in the top ten, with Nordic countries occupying the top three spots in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Clearly, when it comes to the level of average life evaluations, the Nordic states are doing something right, but Nordic exceptionalism isn’t confined to citizen’s happiness. 

The World Happiness report includes a chapter examining this question. They have found through reviewing the existing studies, theories, and data behind the World Happiness Report that the most prominent explanations include factors related to the quality of institutions, such as reliable and extensive welfare benefits, low corruption, and well-functioning democracy and state institutions. Furthermore, Nordic citizens experience a high sense of autonomy and freedom, as well as high levels of social trust towards each other, which play an important role in determining life satisfaction.

On the other hand, we show that a few popular explanations for Nordic happiness such as the small population and homogeneity of the Nordic countries, and a few counterarguments against Nordic happiness such as the cold weather and the suicide rates, actually don’t seem to have much to do with Nordic happiness.

Most of the potential explanatory factors for Nordic happiness are highly correlated with each other and often also mutually reinforcing, making it hard to disentangle cause from effect.