- Finland was named the happiest country in the world in March 2020 for the third year running in the annual World Happiness Report.
- I travelled to Finland to ask residents of all ages why they think the Nordic nation came out top, and whether Finns really are happy.
- While one person thought alcohol was the secret to happiness, most agreed that the welfare system, healthcare provision, and free education were key factors.
- I also learned that Finnish happiness isn’t an outwardly exuberant zest for life, but more of a reserved contentedness and inner peace.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On March 20 2020, Finland was ranked the happiest nation in the world for the third year running.
The annual World Happiness Report awarded the Nordic country the top spot after analysing factors including GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption, as per Reuters.
The report also asked citizens of the 156 nations analysed to rate their own happiness by evaluating their lives.
Considering Finland is very dark and cold for much of the year, on paper it’s surprising that its people are apparently so happy.
In a bid to get to the bottom of the matter and find out just why the Finns are so happy – if indeed they really are – I travelled to Helsinki and then Lapland and asked residents of all ages what their secret is.
1. “The state provides a lot but you still have complete freedom” — Heidi
“You don’t see people in the street just laughing their heads off, it’s more about being content and being at peace with things and being happy with your life,” Heidi told me.
“Society provides great benefits and provides a lot but you still have complete freedom to decide what you want. There’s this great welfare system around you at all stages of life but I don’t feel like the state interferes with my life.
“They make it possible for me to lead the life I want to. I love the work/life balance, and being close to nature. Finns are not well known for showing their emotions.”
2. “It’s not an outward happiness” — Honna
Honna echoed Heidi’s sentiment that Finnish happiness is really more about contentedness and being at peace.
However, she added that she didn’t really know why Finland always ranks top for happiness, and “wasn’t sure” whether she herself was happy.
3. “People just don’t want to complain” — Sina
Sina told Insider she was happy, but was equally unsure as to why. She suggested that perhaps people just say they’re happy when asked as they don’t want to complain.
4. “Finnish people never lie” — Behzad
Pakistani immigrant Behzad originally came to Lapland in 2013 to study before moving to Helsinki. He told Insider that he does believe Finns are happy, but they are “mostly by nature very reserved people,” and don’t talk to strangers much.
Now a Finnish citizen, he’s happy there and rates the financial support Finns get from the government, as well as how honest they are.
“People are mostly punctual and efficient,” Behzad added.
5. “I have a good family and good books to read” — Silke
Elderly woman Silke said it was simple pleasures that made her happy.
“I’m happy because I have a good husband, good children, good grandchildren, good books to read,” she told Insider. “I’ve had a good life.”
6. “It’s mostly connected with alcohol” — Juho
Millennial Juho believes Finns are happy because they love a good alcoholic beverage, and they drink their way to happiness.
7. “We don’t have big income differences” — Kimmo
“Of course, we have democracy,” Kimmo told Insider. “We have a very good health service. We don’t have such big income differences. And the social security is also good.”
“The education system is one of the best in the world,” Kimmo continued. “Everyone goes to school and they have the equal chance to educate themselves as far as they are willing to.”
8. “We have equal opportunities from birth” — Greeta
Greeta echoed the sentiment that Finland’s education system, where university is free, results in equality.
“We all have equal possibilities from birth,” she told Insider. “We can all have a good education. There are very few private schools.”
9. “There’s a good welfare system” — Francis
Kenyan immigrant Francis told Insider he isn’t sure if the Finns really are happy, and believes people are happier back home.
Despite that, he believes the welfare system in Finland is good and quality of life is high, “but that doesn’t measure how people feel.”
10. “We can all access healthcare for free” — Marja
Marja believes Finnish happiness comes down to the fact that everyone has equal access to healthcare provision because it’s free.
After spending a week in Finland, it was clear to me what they all meant. Finns aren’t outwardly jolly, bubbly, “have a nice day” people who walk around with huge grins plastered on their faces, but people really did seem to have a real sense of contentedness and peace with their lives. They were happy, but they didn’t need to shove it in anyone’s faces.
I don’t think there’s one particular reason why Finns feel this way, but rather a combination of everything that results in a healthy, balanced life.
That, and drinking, apparently.
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