Why Is Finland the Happiest Country in the World?

Helsinki, Finland.

A summer panorama of the Market Square (Kauppatori) in Helsinki, Finland. (Image: Scanrail via Dreamstime)

The 2022 UN World Happiness Report showed that Finland has ranked as the happiest country in the world five times in a row. 

A lecturer, philosopher, and psychologist Mr. Frank Martela, from the Aalto University in Finland, stated that there were three things the Finnish always abided by. Is it possible that these qualities are why this country has been selected as the happiest country in the world so many times? 

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Mr. Martela wrote an article for CNBC (Consumer News and Business Channel) explaining the findings of a report conducted on people from 156 countries. The people were asked to rate their current lives using a scoring scale from 0 to 10, with 0 representing the worst possible life.

This report included factors such as social support, longevity, generosity, and eradication of corruption, etc. The results ranked Finland as the happiest country, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Since Mr. Martela specializes in the basic principles of happiness, people often asked him why the Finnish were so pleased with their lives.  

A summer day by the lake Iso-Melkutin in Loppi, Finland.
A summer day by the lake Iso-Melkutin in Loppi, Finland. (Image: Tomi Tenetz via Dreamstime)

Here, Mr. Martela shares his point of view. He states that to maintain a life of high quality, the Finnish would pay attention to the following three things:

1. They embrace the benefits of nature

A survey of around 2,245 people was conducted in 2021. It found that for Finnish adults, 87 percent of the subjects considered nature to be essential to them. They cited how nature energized, relaxed, and brought serenity to their lives. Only 12 percent responded that nature was not necessary for them or they did not like it.

Mr. Martela stated that employees in Finland had a summer vacation of 4 weeks. So many of them spend their vacation in the countryside, immersing themselves in nature. So many cities in Finland are close to the countryside, so the Finnish people are always near the natural environment. For instance, Mr. Martela also lives around Central Park in Helsinki and often walks there. 

2. They never compare themselves with their neighbors

Mr. Martela cited a sentence from a poem: “Do not compare yourself with others or brag about your blessings.” The Finnish people always hold this saying dear to their hearts. This is evident in how they regard and treat the abundance of their earthly life and refrain from publicly showing off one’s wealth.

Mr. Martela offered this example: One day, while walking along the street, he met the wealthiest man in Finland who was pushing a foldable stroller to the subway station with his child inside; instead of buying an expensive car and hiring a driver to drive to the chosen destination, he instead walked to the station and used public transportation. This was how the successful people in Finland behaved – be like everybody else.

Children outdoors dressed for a traditional Easter celebration in Finland.
Children outdoors dressed for a traditional Easter celebration in Finland. (Image: Alexander Shalamov via Dreamstime)

3. They never break people’s trust

One study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that the higher the level of trust among citizens in a country, the higher the status of their happiness. Reader’s Digest conducted a global experiment on “the lost wallet” in 2022.

They left a wallet on purpose in 16 cities in different countries to see if people would return the wallet. They left a wallet in parks, sidewalks, shopping malls, etc., with photos, name cards, cell phone numbers, and cash of about US$50 inside the wallet. The experiment revealed that people in Helsinki were the most honest among all experimental sites. They returned 11 of the 12 wallets left in the city. 

Lasse Luomakoski, a 27-year-old businessman, was one of those who returned the wallet. He told Reader’s Digest: “We are a small, quiet, and close community. We rarely have any incidence of corruption. We do not even run a red light.” 

Mr. Martela depicts how Finnish people trust each other and are honest. For example, he mentioned that if you forgot your notebook in a library or lost your cell phone on a train, you would surely get it back. 

Equally, many children come home from school by taking a bus alone or playing outside alone; there is no need for constant guidance and accompaniment by adults.

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