The Happiest Countries – Lessons for All of Us

The latest World Happiness report, which is a publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, was issued yesterday in conjunction with World Happiness Day, and for the sixth year in a row Finland ranked as the world’s happiest country, followed by Denmark and Iceland. But since we can’t all move to Finland, is there something other societies can learn from these rankings?

“Is it are they doing things that we wish we’d seen before and we can start doing? Or is it something unique about their climate and history that make them different? And fortunately… the answer appears to be the former.” Surprisingly, two countries in the shadow of major conflict scored well: Israel moved up to #4, while Lithuania landed at 16, up from #52 four years ago. Overall world happiness has not taken a hit in the three years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Life evaluations from 2020 to 2022 have been “remarkably resilient,” the report says, with global averages basically in line with the three years preceding the pandemic.

How are we moving forward?

One of the report’s authors, John Helliwell, concluded that “People are rethinking their life objectives,” “They’re saying, ‘I’m going back, but what am I going back to? What do I want to go back to? How do I want to spend the rest of my life?’” He’s hoping this “move towards thinking about values and other people more explicitly” will affect not just factors such as which jobs or schools people choose, but also how they operate within those environments. “It isn’t really about the grades or the salary, it’s about cooperating with other people in a useful way. And of course, that’s useful for the world, but the whole point of this happiness research is that it’s also good for the people doing it. “In other words, you do end up feeling better about yourself if you’re actually looking after other people rather than number one.”