WHY ARE THEY THE HAPPIEST IN THE WORLD?
The World Happiness Report is a global initiative by the United Nations that ranks 150 countries according to the level of happiness evaluated by their citizens. For the past five consecutive years, Finland has retained the top position, and it was noted that many Nordic countries were placed in the top 10.
The ranking is estimated on six main factors, including GDP per capita, Healthy life expectancy, Generosity, Social Support, Freedom of making life choices, and Perceptions of Corruption. Even after 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic, they still hold a high position as they grappled well with the disease.
When it comes to happiness, it doesn’t mean that the Scandinavian people are always happy and don’t suffer from mental health issues. It simply signifies the feeling of being content in the long run. This could be due to the region’s high societal trust and low unemployment, which means a low crime rate. They have some of the highest taxes in the world, but they are more than happy to comply since their state welfare and social benefits provide for better access to education, healthcare and security.
When they have important issues like job security, health and education in place they can invest emotionally in more important things that multiply the level of happiness, like friends, family and recreation.
Even though Northern most parts of Europe receive very little daylight, Finnish people don’t let it dampen their spirits and have a huge number of saunas. They love to relax in a hot sauna on harsh and cold winter days and have adapted well to their climatic conditions. They believe in the philosophy of living simply amidst nature and often take hikes with their families or ski in the mountains.
In Denmark, there is the concept of ‘Hygge’ with its variations in countries like Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and more. It is basically a concept that focuses on the feeling of cosiness, warmth, love and fulfilment. They have always placed the feeling of comfort and contentment as the topmost priority, which reflects in their general behaviour and lifestyle.
When it comes to the work-life balance, they have aced that facet of life too, which can be described as a ‘recipe for happiness’. Having a thriving professional life along with the time and space to practise one’s passion is the essence of life. In Denmark, this can be attributed to the fact that they do not have long working hours, which is typically 37 hours in 5 days. Their working arrangements are flexible and they can work from home on some days. The employees also get a guaranteed five weeks of vacation time. There is interestingly a thing called ‘stress leave’ so they can work on their mental health and find another suitable job option.
Freedom of choice is another factor that the Nordic people take very seriously, which means freedom to lead a life the way you want, like pursuing one’s passion, choosing the right partner, and more. A degree of autonomy leads to better well-being and studies show that a rise in freedom of choice leads to a 30 per cent increase in the total well being of an individual. This included material prosperity, tolerant behaviour, liberal cultural values and room to express each unique identity which is possible due to a wellfunctioning democracy.
The government schemes and state welfare generosity were also deciding factors, which increased the overall GDP and provided an optimal distribution of goods and services.
Their policies benefit both the rich and the poor, and during times of unemployment, they provide income security. Progressive taxation helps by keeping healthcare, education, and public transportation at a high standard. People in Nordic countries have a trust value in the government and have political stability. This makes corruption very low and even has very lowincome inequality.