If you imagine a ladder whose rungs are numbered zero to 10, and zero represents your worst possible life and 10 represents your best, which rung would you be on?
This is the question asked of people around the world every year for the World Happiness Report. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the report which uses global survey data to report how people evaluate their happiness in more than 150 countries. The study researchers will reveal the results of the 2023 report at noon tomorrow, March 20, the International Day of Happiness.
What’s interesting is Finland has ranked #1 for the past five years in a row, followed by Denmark and Iceland in second and third place in last year’s report. Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Israel and New Zealand all ranked among the top 10 ‘happiest’ countries in the world. Canada ranked 15th and the US 16th.
I dug a little deeper to understand why Finns have ranked #1 for the past five years. I’ve never been to Finland, and have only had a few Finnish friends over the years.
Finns are not exactly known for their exuberance. There is a Finnish saying, ‘If you’re happy, you should hide it”. Their happiness manifests itself as more of a deep contentment, part of their hygge culture.
One thing the study illuminates, and is true in all the northern European nations who rank the happiest every year, is having access to the basics is a strong baseline for happiness.
In Finland, everyone has access to guaranteed health care, tuition-free school, a living wage, affordable housing, and free universal daycare from eight months until the start of formal education at age seven. It also doesn’t hurt that all Finns get five weeks of vacation every year.
But a key reason why Finland ranks #1 each year is their emphasis on family, friends, relationships and not on accumulating wealth or material possessions. They have their priorities straight.
This week’s #HappyAct is to watch for tomorrow’s report and ask yourself the question, which rung would you be on?
Ed note: If you’d like to read the full report, go to worldhappiness.report. I highly recommend taking 20 minutes to read a few of the sub-reports which are fascinating. For instance, in the report “Exploring the biological basis of happiness”, the researchers concluded that genetics does play a role in happiness. In fact, one study that tracked the lives of identical and fraternal twins found remarkably, that identical twins who were reared apart (100% genetically identical, no shared environmental influences or experiences) turned out to be more similar with respect to their well-being than fraternal twins who grew up together.
Another study on optimism during the pandemic found that while most participants experienced decreases in their optimism and meaning in life during COVID-19, for more than a third of the participants, their levels of optimism and meaning in life remained stable. Fascinating stuff.