Nordics dominate happiness index
Finland has been named the world’s happiest country with Burundi at the bottom of the list of 156 countries, according to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s 2018 World Happiness Report.
It ranked the countries according to GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and lack of corruption.
On a scale of zero to 10, the average result for Finland was 7.6 and 2.9 in Burundi.
Nordic nations, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden, dominated the list while Switzerland and the Netherlands also made the top 10, which also included Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland all had very similar scores, the study said.
“Finland has vaulted from fifth place to the top of the rankings this year,” said the report.
Its exports include Nokia phones, the Moomins cartoon and the Angry Birds app.
The ranking sits uncomfortably with Finland’s ongoing association with suicide. In 2015 the World Health Organisation said Finns came 35th in the suicide list (above Burundi in 42nd) and, despite an impressive fall, it had one of the highest rates in the OECD in 2013.
The happiness rankings were based on Gallup polls and other research with all Nordic states scoring high in every “well-being” category: income, life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.
Other surveys have said Finland was the safest, most stable and best-governed nation.
The US came 18th, dropping four places from last year, with Germany coming 15th, the UK 19th, Japan 54, Russia 59 and China 86.
“I think everything in this society is set up for people to be successful, starting with university and transportation that works really well,” said Brianna Owens, a US teacher in the second city Espoo.
For the first time, the study ranked the happiness of foreign-born migrants in 117 countries, with Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland scoring double-gold as “home to the world’s happiest immigrants”.
Finland, with a population of around 5.5 million, had around 300,000 foreigners in 2016.
It has most heavy metal bands per capita, including HIM, Nightwish and Children of Bodom and an estimated 3.3 million saunas and steam rooms.
Latvia and Bulgaria had some of the best improved scores this year. The biggest loser was Venezuela, which dropped 20 places to 102.
“The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born,” said report co-editor John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia.
“Although immigrants come from countries with very different levels of happiness, their reported life evaluations converge towards those of other residents in their new countries.
“Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose,” he added.
A block party in Kallio in the Finnish capital, Helsinki. Picture credit: Flickr