Finland has been on my list for ages. It’s got saunas, huskies and glass igloos, and to top it all off, last week it was named the happiest country in the world, according to the 2018 World Happiness Report from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Just another reason to add it to the list!
It’ll come as little surprise to many that another Nordic country has nabbed the top spot. After all, the scores for Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland have been largely interchangeable over the last few years, with all having held the top spot at least once, and Sweden is just slightly further down the list. They’re certainly doing something right…
I’ve become particularly enamoured with Denmark in recent years and how everyone seems to be so damned chilled and perky all the time, not to mention their love of hygge – The Year of Living Danishly is a favourite book of mine – and this study is just another example of the fantastic standard of living in these countries.
But just why are they so happy? Well, according to the study, all Nordic nations scored highly on income, social support, life expectancy, freedom, trust and generosity, the results being largely based on polls of self-reported wellbeing – which means it isn’t just research bods crunching the numbers, but locals actually saying how happy they are in their respective countries, and locals in Finland were the happiest of the lot.
Considering that Finland has around 3.3 million saunas, husky sledding and some of the best opportunities on the planet to see the Northern Lights, I’m in no doubt that Finns are happy (of course, there’s probably more to it than that, but it sounds good so far). A lot of it comes down to societal support – Nordic countries have some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet people are happy with that; they’re “good at converting wealth into wellbeing,” said Meik Wiking at the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark.
Nordic nations are known for their excellent healthcare, free education and even free childcare, which means new parents needn’t worry about the cost of getting back to work. Meik added that “there is wide public support [for the high tax rates] because people see them as investments in quality of life for all. Free healthcare and university education goes a long way when it comes to happiness.”
That it does! Coming from a country where university tuition fees top £9,000 a year and homeownership is becoming increasingly out of reach for many, I can definitely see why higher taxes could be a decent trade-off for a better quality of life. There are of course the other studies that highlight Finland’s high rate of depression given the fact that it’s under the cover of darkness for much of the year, but for the most part, it seems that the economic, political and societal benefits outweigh the lack of sunlight.
So, is it time to emigrate yet? I was hoping to head to Finland earlier this year, but a combination of not-quite-enough-funds and my husband not having enough annual leave left meant it couldn’t be done, but we’re hoping to rectify that in the next year or so. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences – has anyone ever been to Finland? If so, do you think it lives up to the happiness hype? Let me know in the comments!