Finland named the happiest country on earth

Norway is knocked into second in UN rankings dominated by Scandinavia

While they may have a reputation for being grumpy, withdrawn and forthright, it turns out that Finns may be on to something – Finland has just been named the happiest nation on earth.

The Scandinavian country jumped from fourth in this year’s UN World Happiness Report, knocking Norway from the top spot.

The Northern Lights are one of the many beautiful experiences Finland has to offer – Shutterstock happiest
The Northern Lights are one of the many beautiful experiences Finland has to offer – Shutterstock

One of the most northerly – and coldest – countries on earth, Finland has little to offer but epic skylines, huge, wild, snow-covered pine forests that happen to be home to Santa and the best film festival in the world, and one of the most vibrant cultural scenes in Europe.

When compiling the yearly report, the report’s authors assess statistics collected by the UN. These include average life expectancy, GDP per capita, social security and the freedom to make life choices.

People in each country are also asked to respond to a survey that attempts to evaluate “happiness” and “subjective well-being”.

New Zealanders have shown that they are happier than their antipodean cousins, the Australians – Shutterstock Finland happiest
New Zealanders have shown that they are happier than their antipodean cousins, the Australians – Shutterstock

Finland is closely followed in the rankings by Norway and Denmark, then Iceland and Sweden. Canada is the only North American country in the top 10, and New Zealand, coming in eighth, tops Australia at tenth.

The least happy countries are the war-torn states of Burundi, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Yemen, Syria and Liberia also come close the bottom.

And not everything is so good in Finland either – the country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, standing at 14 per 100,000 people in 2017, according to the WHO.

This has been falling over the past ten years as Finland invests in better mental health and community care. Between 2008 and 2011 it fell by 25.8 per cent, according to the OECD.

So, perhaps next time you see someone with a broad grin on their face, take some time to ask them what’s behind the smile. The happiness they report may not tell the whole story.