For the second year in a row, Finland grabbed the top spot as the happiest country in the world with its Nordic buddies close behind: Denmark was second, Norway third and Iceland fourth.
Canada? We weren’t too far behind the hygge-championing nations that focus on cozy living. We are the ninth happiest country in the world, says the UN World Happiness Report released Wednesday.
The report ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, according to their own evaluations of their lives.
Despite frigid winters that reach extremes of -50 C, a suicide rate (16.4 per 100,000) that exceeds the OECD average and falling birth rates (1.6 births per woman) — endorphins are coursing through the Finns.
But it might not be so surprising for a country that experiences 200 days of winter in the north.
The Finnish culture obviously contributes to their happiness.
There’s nothing quite like getting naked and steamy in a sauna with a fellow Finn. “It is a must at regular intervals,” Finland’s tourism site exhorts, "and if they go too long without sauna, they’ll start feeling incomplete.”
Finland’s access to exceptional nature also contributes to their overall happiness. Apparently, Finns will grab a berry-picking basket to take with them on strolls through the woods.
The Nordic nation’s education system differs from how we think of schooling in North America. Instead of starting school in Grade 1 at the age of six, Finnish children start basic education at age seven. On top of that, they attend basic education until they’re 16. Then, there’s a Finnish form of high school from 16 to 19.
Formal testing isn’t pushed upon the students until they’re into their mid-teens. Instead, teachers have much control over how and what they teach, including the selection of textbooks they assign. Younger pupils are barely given homework, but are pushed to find their passions and encouraged to learn through play, the New York Times reported.
Finland’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) score averages 523 — the average for OECD countries is 486.
The efficacy of Finland’s education system means that 88 per cent of the populace has a post-secondary education and 69 per cent has paid jobs. By comparison, the OECD average is 74 per cent and 67 per cent respectively.
Finns also take community seriously. Ninety-five per cent of people in Finland said they know someone they could rely on in a time of need. Boosting community is the motivation for a growing trend in Finnish cities — reinvigorating their libraries.
In the city of Vantaa, the number of library visitors has increased by 14 per cent and people are spending more time there to hang out. The library has introduced new services to engage youth while also cutting costs. People report their time spent in libraries has increased by 300 per cent.
When Finland was deemed the happiest country in the world in 2018, Finnish philosopher Frank Martela posited that it was in part due to the Finns’ tendency to be humble.
In Finnish culture, he says, people aren’t overt about their achievements — especially blasting them on social media. People tend to downplay successes online and offline, which in turn makes Finns happier.
“This is because social comparison seems to play a significant role in people’s life satisfaction,” he wrote in Scientific American. “If everybody else is doing better than you, it is hard to be satisfied with your life conditions, no matter how good they objectively are.”
Among OECD countries, Finland ranks sixth in terms of a clean environment while Canada ranks eighth.
“The quality of our local living environment has a direct impact on our health and well-being,” it says on the OECD’s website. “Outdoor air pollution is one important environmental issue that directly affects the quality of people’s lives.”
Work-life balance is a slightly better in Finland than in Canada, with Finns reporting they spend on average 15.2 hours in their day to personal activities, including eating, sleeping, leisure and social time. Canadians on average give about 14.4 hours to personal activities.
Finland and Canada both have higher-than-average life expectancies, too, with the average person living to about 82.
The report put out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network was done through a poll collected by Gallup World Report.
The overall trends show decrease in happiness when factoring population growth. In Asia and Africa, sadness, worry and anger are on the rise.
South Sudan, which is rife with political instability and crimes against humanity, earned the spot of least happy nation.