Finland – The Happiest Country Once Again in 2023

The 2023 Global Happiness Report was published today. First, we must add a minor correction to the reporting. The report pictures the average of three years (2020-22), in which Finland had first place. On a scale of zero to ten, the Finnish average was 7,80. The second-best Denmark had an average of 7.59. In studying the attached tables, I deduced that over these three years the Finnish average has been slightly reduced. It was about 7,75 in last year’s sample, and 7,85 in 2020.

The study did not poll happiness, but rather life satisfaction. It is pretty much the same thing as happiness when life situation is polled retroactively during a specific period. As a feeling, happiness is rather different from happiness as satisfaction. The study also asked for positive feelings at the time of the interview. In these, Finland was ranked 26th. Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador were at the top. In experiencing negative feelings, Finland did better. Finland was ranked 12th in their absence. At the top you found Taiwan, Kazakhstan and Mauritius.

Finland was near the top with many questions that illustrated well-being. In one’s freedom to make decisions related to one’s own life Finland was ranked 1st, 2nd in the absence of corruption, and also 2nd in the receiving of social support. In gross national income, Finland was ranked 20th. In life expectance (in healthy years) Finland placed 20th, and 42nd in charity.

One surprising result has always been the fact that collective, or communal, cultures do not seem to provide as much support as one might expect. In them, it seems people are left bereft of individualized support they would need. It is not easy to reveal one’s innermost feelings in those cultures.

Throughout the data, satisfaction was explained by GNI, social support, life expectancy, the experience of freedom, generosity, and the lack of corruption – the things that were just listed above. In many international studies, these have explained approximately half of the variation found in satisfaction. It means that fairly objective indexes of well-being explain a lot about how people experience happiness or satisfaction.

Finland’s happiness has been widely marvelled at, initially in Finland too. Now we have grown used to it. Reporters from six countries have questioned me on Finland’s secret to happiness. Our position at the top is a natural thing, given that Finland has many of these strengths described above. I have been unable to say, however, why Finland comes out better than the other Nordics. They are more prosperous than Finland, which is an important factor in happiness. I would expect Norway to be number one.

Are Finns perhaps satisfied with less, or better able to accept whatever life may bring?

Contact information for prof. Markku Ojanen

Brandpundt Plus: Hollanninkielinen haastattelu suomalaisten onnellisuudesta

Hollantilaisen KRO-NCRV -kanavan verkkolehti Brandpundt Plus julkaisi 02. pvä toukokuuta 2018 Markun kanssa englanniksi käydyn, hollanniksi käännetyn haastattelun. Pete Wun ja Hannah Vischerin “Dit kunnen we van het gelukkigste land ter wereld leren over levensvreugde” voi lukea hollanniksi heidän sivuiltaan. Hollantia taitamattomille julkaisemme alla kysymykset ja niiden vastaukset myös englannin kielellä:

I spoke to Yukio Uchida, who wrote that the measuring of happiness should take into account cultural differences. What are the cultural elements that, would you say, defines Finnish happiness?

Though Finland is an individualistic country, industrialization began here later than in other Nordic countries. Finland was an agrarian country until the 1960’s, and carried traditional values that emphasized “home, religion, and country”. Thus happiness was either luck, providence, or the privileges of the wealthy. One of our greatest poets, Eino Leino (1878 – 1926), has played into the hearts of the older generations:
A Song of Joy Whom joy possess, they ought their joys conceal, Whom treasure have, they ought their treasures shield, and be merry of the mirth of all their own and enrich’d by these riches all alone.   No joy can ever suffer others’ gander. Whom joy possess, to wilderness ought wander and ought to live a-quiet, quiet living and their happiness enjoyed quieted within. Leino, Eino. ”Laulu onnesta”. In Hiihtäjän virsiä. 1900. Translated by Martti Ojanen.
Although times are changing, and Finns are reading books and articles on happiness, having past ideas remains common:
  • Happiness belongs to fairy tales, songs, and poems, and not to real life
  • Don’t talk about your personal happiness
  • Finns cannot be happy
  • Take life as it comes

Has the idea of happiness changed in the past decades?

There have been many changes. At first, happiness barely dared to take a peek from the closet; now it can open the door, and step into the daylight. In a study of mine, the majority of Finns thought that we can increase our happiness. (Those who had this opinion were happier than those who doubted it.) However, I wonder how seriously happiness is generally being taken into account. Obviously people do read about happiness, but do these stories have any influence on their lives? Not much, I’m afraid. And perhaps there is ultimately no need, because Finns are actually happy. Lue lisää