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World Happiness Report 2024: serial winner Finland, Switzerland in 9th place

The happiest people on earth live way up north. For the seventh time in a row, Finland is the country with the happiest population in the world, according to the annual World Happiness Report published on Wednesday.

According to the survey, the top places are once again largely occupied by northern countries. Finland was followed by Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Israel. Switzerland lost one place compared to the previous year and landed in ninth place. Germany made a significant downward leap, slipping from 16th to 24th place. 143 countries are included in the ranking.

In the report, the researchers looked at the period between 2021 and 2023, evaluating subjective assessments of the lives of the population living in the country.

Global inequality in happiness has increased by more than twenty percent in all regions and age groups over the past twelve years. According to the World Happiness Report, the unhappiest country is Afghanistan. There is a difference of around 6 points on the average happiness scale of 0 to 10 between the country with the happiest people, Finland (7.7), and the unhappiest country, Afghanistan (1.7). Switzerland has a score of 7.06 on the scale, compared to 7.24 in the 2023 World Happiness Report.

Great satisfaction in the north

"What all Scandinavian or Nordic countries have in common, so to speak - they have very small populations that are very down-to-earth," Catarina Lachmund told the German Press Agency. She is a senior analyst at the Institute for Happiness Research in Denmark. Happiness can be defined as contentment. Denmark has also repeatedly made it to the top of the rankings. It last took the top spot in 2016.

The happiness researchers did not go into detail in the report about what exactly makes the Finns happier than any other people in the world. However, they did identify a number of key factors that generally make people happier, such as social support, income, freedom and the absence of corruption.

"So it's not necessarily happy in the sense of jumping up and down, of joy in the moment. It's more a feeling of contentment. I think that's an important point," said Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report. The fact is that people in the Scandinavian countries rate their own lives very highly on these points and are satisfied.

"What really sets them apart is the social support and trust," said De Neve. This is particularly about social cohesion. "When it comes to friends you can rely on, the state you can rely on in times of need - they trust each other."

Trust in supporting institutions

And it is precisely this trust that the people from the north have in their government and institutions to a large extent. Not least because of their calm demeanor: "I would call it the wait-and-see approach. Let's take a look at it calmly, have a coffee and a cinnamon bun first. And then we'll make a decision that is backed by the majority of the population," says Lachmund, describing the Nordic calm.

"One factor is that the government functions effectively, but above all that it is actually able to be there for its citizens," said Finnish psychologist Frank Martela. So it's not necessarily that Finland has the most overly happy people, but rather that there are very few extremely unhappy people in Finland, said Martela. This also contributes to the fact that people compare themselves less with others.

It is precisely this balance that makes a difference. Making unhappy people happier instead of making already happy people even happier: "Countries are extremely good at converting their prosperity into well-being and balancing out the extremes," Lachmund emphasized.

Movement in the ranking

Overall, there have been some changes in the ranking of the happiest countries, particularly in the midfield. Germany slipped down eight places. The assessment of life or quality of life as experienced by people in Germany is therefore slightly lower this time than last year. In the list, the largest countries are no longer among the happiest 20 - the USA has also fallen: 23rd place instead of last year's 15th place.

"In other countries, life satisfaction has risen, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, and they have obviously pushed them out of the top 20," said De Neve, assessing the shifts. Countries such as Lithuania, Slovenia and the Czech Republic in particular have gained in satisfaction.

It will probably take a lot more change to knock the Nordic countries off the throne. "I would hope that the reason for the Scandinavian countries losing the top position at some point is that other countries have become better at this," said Martela. According to him, the other countries can only learn from the north.

©Keystone/SDA

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