World’s Happiest Country is (Once Again) Finland – But What Does This Mean in an Age of Coronavirus

The Riesenrad, or giant ferris wheel, a symbol of the city of Vienna. Austria is No. 9 on the list.

By Jonathan Spira on 20 March 2020
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In the midst of a pandemic, the idea of the world’s happiest country takes on new meaning.

If anything, the criteria the creators of the rating system used in the World Happiness Report, prepared by the United Nations, are even more relevant in the age of the coronavirus, with considerations that include the social safety net and other support systems a country has in place before trouble strikes.

Perhaps not to anyone’s surprise, Finland was named the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway.  Others in the top ten include the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Austria, and Luxembourg.

The top ten – and really the top 20 – experience very little variation year to year. Canada was displaced by Luxembourg as No. 10 and now falls in the No. 11 slot. The United States was No. 19 last year and moved ahead one position to No. 18.  Others filling out the top 20 include Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Costa Rica, Ireland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Belgium.

The report is always released on March 20, the International Day of Happiness, an observance many may have overlooked given the circumstances under which the world is living today.

The report’s authors look at factors such as gross domestic product, social support from friends and family, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perceived corruption and recent emotions — both happy and sad.

This year it focused especially on the environment, zooming in on social, urban, and natural factors.  A careful examination of happiness in the Nordic countries found that “higher personal and institutional trust are key factors in explaining why life evaluations are so high in those countries,” the report said.

As a careful reader of the reports since their inception, I believe that it is more than just a coincidencethat, from 2013 until today, every time the World Happiness Report has published its annual ranking, the five Nordic countries – Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland – have all been in the top ten. Indeed, Nordic countries occupied the top three spots in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Clearly, when it comes life and happiness, the Nordic states are doing something right.  And this is despite the rather prevalent myths of weather, relatively small population, homogeneity, and suicides.

On the other hand, being a part of one of the world’s largest economies has little impact on one’s ranking.  The United Kingdom placed at No. 13 (it was No. 15 last year), while Germany ranked at No. 17, Japan at No. 62, Russia at No. 73, and China at No. 94.

The report was prepared by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an international panel of economists, psychologists, and public health experts convened by the United Nations, using a variety of data including the Gallup World Poll. an average of three years of surveys conducted by Gallup between 2016 and 2018.

It ranks 156 countries based by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

The first World Happiness Report, the creation of which was approved unanimously by the U.N. General Council in 2012, was released in 2012, also on the Day of Happiness, which is also known as Happiness Day. The idea is credited to the prime minister of Bhutan, to bring international attention to the idea of happiness as a measure of life quality and well-being.  Bhutan placed No. 95 on the list, between Vietnam and Cameroon.

Meanwhile, people in Afghanistan are the most unhappy, at No.153, followed by South Sudan (No. 152), Zimbabwe (No. 151), Rwanda (No. 150), and the Central African Republic (No. 149).

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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