Finland remains the land of happiness, with or without Covid-19

View from the city of Vaasa, Finland, in January 2017 (illustration).
View from the city of Vaasa, Finland, in January 2017 (illustration). (OLIVIER MORIN / AFP)

In Finnish, “happy” said to himself “onnellinen”, or “iloinen”. The Finns are therefore the most “onellinen” of the world. And it’s been 4 years that it lasts. This is the result of the annual survey created 10 years ago, The World Happiness Report, the global happiness index. This classification is a mixture between the perception that the populations have of their situation (“Am I happy?”) and objective indicators (gross domestic product, level of corruption, respect for individual freedoms).

Finland, with a population of 5.5 million in the far north of Europe, ticks all the boxes: high standard of living, guaranteed public freedoms, strong solidarity, efficient public services, access to nature. And a controlled Covid-19 epidemic: only 800 dead for a year. It’s the best record in Europe with Iceland and Norway. Moreover, Northern Europe, as in previous years, is the big winner in this ranking: Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, all are in the top 10. Only Switzerland manages to slip into the middle, to third place in the world.

France is not doing so badly. She is ranked 21st in the world, two places better than last year. All the countries of Western Europe are at the same levels, between 10th and 30th place: ahead of France, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium (20th, just ahead of us). Behind us: Spain, Italy. Among the top 20, there is a Middle Eastern country, Israel, 12th, two Oceania countries, New Zealand and Australia, 9th and 11th.

More surprisingly, a country in Central America, little Costa Rica. Costa Rica, obviously less rich than these Western powers, has a real quality of life and a high educational level. At the end of the ranking, no surprise: Afghanistan and several African countries, such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi. The ranking lists only 150 countries. Some are absent for lack of sufficient or reliable indicators. For example, Syria, at war for ten years, and which would undoubtedly be at the bottom of the scale.

Obviously, it makes sense to think that the Covid-19 pandemic has set back this perception of happiness. There are obviously variations depending on the country, depending on whether the virus has wreaked havoc more or less. But overall, and surprisingly enough, the impact of the virus is low. In their self-assessment of happiness and well-being, people do not say that things are less well. For one of the authors of the survey, the explanation and the following: The prevailing feeling is that the epidemic is an external threat, which attacks everyone. And that forces us to come closer to each other, to stand together, to develop networks of solidarity. However, mutual trust is a central parameter in this evaluation, which one can have of his own happiness. This is where we fall back on Finland: this indicator of mutual trust is high.

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