HELSINKI — Mar 14, 2018, 1:42 PM ET

Despite cold, dark, Finland tops 2018 global happiness index


If cold weather and a lack of sunlight in winter are enough to get you down, chances are you're not Finnish.

The World Happiness Report published Wednesday put Finland at the top among 156 countries ranked by happiness levels, based on factors such as life expectancy, social support and corruption.

Finland has emerged as the happiest place to live even though little sun and low temperatures are often blamed for high rates of depression.

"Well, our politics and our economics . I think the basics are quite good in Finland," said Sofia Holm, 24-year-old resident of Helsinki, the Nordic country's capital. "So, yes, we have the perfect circumstances to have a happy life here in Finland."

And that's not forgetting other plentiful attractions like skiing and saunas and, for children of all ages, Santa Claus.

"It's a great thing to live in the happiest country although it's snowing and we are walking in this wet snow," said Helsinki resident Inari Lepisto, 28. "Yes, we have many things that make me happy."

This year, the annual report published by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network also evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants.

In 2015, more than a million migrants entered Europe, and a few thousand made it to Finland, a relatively homogenous country with about 300,000 foreigners and residents with foreign roots, out of its 5.5 million people.

Finland's largest immigrant groups come from other European nations, but there also are communities from Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Somalia.

John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, noted that all the countries in the Top 10 scored highest both in overall happiness and regarding the happiness of immigrants. He said a society's happiness seems contagious.

"The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born," Helliwell said. "Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose."

Europe's Nordic nations, none particularly diverse, have dominated the index since it first was produced in 2012. In reaching No. 1, Finland nudged neighboring Norway into second place.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year.

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute, said the five Nordic countries that reliably rank high in the index "are doing something right in terms of creating good conditions for good lives," something newcomers have noticed.

He said the happiness revealed in the survey derives from healthy amounts of both personal freedoms and social security that outweigh residents having to pay "some of the highest taxes in the world."

"Briefly put, (Nordic countries) are good at converting wealth into well-being," Wiking said. The finding on the happiness of immigrants "shows the conditions that we live under matter greatly to our quality of life, that happiness is not only a matter of choice."

The United States was 11th in the first index and has never been in the Top 10. The report cited several factors to explain its falling ranking.

"The U.S. is in the midst of a complex and worsening public health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards," the report said.

It added that the "sociopolitical system" in the United States produces more income inequality — a major contributing factor to unhappiness — than other countries with comparatively high incomes.

The U.S. also has seen declining "trust, generosity and social support, and those are some of the factors that explain why some countries are happier than others," Wiking said.

One of the world's northernmost countries stretching some 1,160 kilometers (720 miles) from north to south, the sun does not set for 73 consecutive days during summer at Finland's northernmost point. During the winter months, the sun doesn't rise at all for 51 days in Lapland, northern Finland.


Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

News - Despite cold, dark, Finland tops 2018 global happiness index

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  • cephalo

    Here is what you need to know about happiness. We get pleasure from what we do for ourselves, but we get happiness from what we do for others.

    Once you understand that happiness and pleasure are in fact opposite of each other, you can be happy.

  • jdj

    Seems pretty obvious that diversity is a hindrance to happiness. I believe it is a problem under all circumstances.

  • just saying

    With all the shootings I'm not surprised that USA at bottom of list. Even 6 y/o's have access to guns.

  • Emma Lou #2

    it says to me the happiest country had the least immigrants.

  • Katri Arjava

    One step to happiness is to lose the idea of being better than the rest of the world. The only way to being a great nation is to let others thrive, too.

  • Dave Park

    'Relatively homogenous Finland has about 300,000 foreigners" Why aren't liberals screaming racism at the top of their lungs?

  • cephalo

    One thing that Finland has that nobody else has is a partial basic income. Look it up, read about it and learn how it can save capitalism.

  • The 84th Panther

    I imagine that this news must be a bummer to the unhappy people in Finland, they look around and think, "this is as good as it gets?"

  • Dave Park

    Looks like LESS diversity adds up to a happier population.

  • Optimist-2618173

    Full gun registration and licensing in Finland. I don't think that would make Finland the happiest country in the NRA's eyes.

  • Jukka-Emil Vanaja

    Hard to believe that an exact 100 years ago, this self-same country was in the full swing of a civil war particularily barbaric even in europe's lofty standards of massacring one's brothers and countrymen. And that it was at the time considered the poorest, least-developed nation in Europe as well.

  • Realpshep

    Seems it all boils down to money and economic equality. Which we definitely don't have in America

  • Enigmatic Pragmatist

    Many of us may be somewhat happier after the 2018 midterms. And a LOT happier after the 2020 presidential election if Donald the Destroyer is voted out of office. We might not surpass Finland's happiness index, but maybe we could surpass our own. What a refreshing change.......

  • 80HD

    Colorado has about 30 thousand less square miles than Finland but about the same population.
    Managing a country the size of Colorado should be relatively simple in comparison.

  • FFunQ

    I guess one must be adjusted to the cold to think so.