Finland has a lot to celebrate.
Not only does it have a capital city bursting with gastronomic creativity, the spectacular Northern Lights and Santa Claus’ year-round home (plus the reindeer support staff) in Lapland.
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It’s also the happiest country in the world for the second year in a row, according to the latest World Happiness Report.
It’s followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and The Netherlands.
The World Happiness Report was released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations on March 20, the date the UN has declared to be the International Day of Happiness.
The report ranks countries on six key variables that support wellbeing: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.
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“The top 10 countries tend to rank high in all six variables, as well as emotional measures of well-being,” says report co-editor John Helliwell, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia.
And that’s not just about the native-born residents of those countries.
“It’s true that last year all Finns were happier than rest of the countries’ residents, but their immigrants were also happiest immigrants in the world,” says Helliwell.
“It’s not about Finnish DNA. It’s the way life is lived in those countries.”
They pay high taxes for a social safety net, they trust their government, they live in freedom and they are generous with each other.
“They do care about each other,” he says. “That’s the kind of place people want to live.”
A year’s difference
Differences among the top eight countries are small enough that jostling among the top five is expected every year.
Switzerland came in sixth place, followed by Sweden, New Zealand, Canada (the only country in the Americas) and Austria.
The 2019 list only changed a little, with Austria nudging Australia out of the top 10 list.
Australia dropped one spot to 11th place.
Ranking high in happiness doesn’t protect a country’s people from violence or trauma, as the recent attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand show. But the response of New Zealand’s people to the attacks does.
New Zealand came in eighth place this year, as it did last year.
“What stands out about the happiest and most well-connected societies is their resilience and ability to deal with bad things,” says Helliwell.
No other superpowers made it into the top 10 rankings, either.
The United Kingdom came in 15th place, up from 18th place, while Germany came in 17th place, down from 15th.
Japan came in 58th place (down from 54th), Russia came in 68th place (down from 59th) and China came in 93rd place (down from 86th).
People in South Sudan are the most unhappy with their lives, according to the survey of 156 countries, followed by Central African Republic (155), Afghanistan (154), Tanzania (153) and Rwanda (152).
Bolstered by population growth, overall world happiness has fallen over the past few years, which has mostly been fueled by a sustained drop in India, which came in 140th place this year (versus 133rd place in 2018).
There has also been an increase of negative emotions, which were also measured and include worry, sadness and anger.
This report is the seventh to come out since 2012.
The rankings of the world’s happiest countries came from an analysis of data from surveys in 156 countries, including the Gallup World Poll starting in 2005-2006.
World’s happiest countries
8. New Zealand
World’s least happy countries
1. South Sudan
2. Central African Republic