Why are the Nordic countries so happy?Nú Ninja Helga Mjöll
Every year the World Happiness Report is released by surveying how happy a country’s citizens recognize themselves to be. The data is gathered from 156 countries through a global polling company, Gallup, in partnership with academic institutions including Columbia University, the University of British Columbia, and the London School of Economics. The research gathered seeks to consider the social, urban, and natural environmental factors that may influence an individuals happiness.
This year however, in light of the ongoing global pandemic the World Happiness Report has decided to focus on the effects of COVID-19 on the structure and/or quality of people’s lives alongside how governments have dealt with the pandemic itself. The effects of COVID-19, not just medical, have had immense impacts on people’s mental health. That being said, there is much research proving how COVID-19 has decreased many people’s happiness worldwide. It was reported that the prevalence of depressive symptoms rose from around 9.7% among adults in early 2020 to 19.2% in June later that year (The World Happiness Report, 2021). This is a result of many factors, but mostly, as human beings, we seek a feeling of connectedness, and in times when we must physically distance and self isolate from the ones we are closest to, our happiness is directly affected.
Since the release of the first World Happiness Report in 2012, the Nordic countries, that is Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Åland Islands, and Faroe Islands, have all been among the top happiest countries. Why is this?
Well, to begin, research and authors of the World Happiness Report have stated that, “Confidence in public institutions, knowledge from previous epidemics, income inequality and whether the head of government is a woman” all have an influence on respondents when it comes to calculating a countries overall happiness. Scandinavian countries especially have been very forward thinking. In fact, they were one of the first countries to win voting rights for women. Iceland too has been best known for their efforts to gain wage equality for similar work and is even home to the first female president.
The World Happiness Report states that these pillars are what help to support a happy life, “good health, good jobs, and a society where people can connect easily with each other in mutual trust and support”. For the Nordic countries, they are known for having access to free education and healthcare. In countries such as the United States, where healthcare is not provided equally to all citizens, healthcare can be a costly expense which causes further stress and unhappiness in someone’s life. Additionally, the Nordic countries have been known to have lower crime rates, social security nets, and a fairly wealthy population. Overall, the Nordic countries have been successful in implementing systems that benefit their citizens that many countries have been fighting for, this is why they are known to be among some of the happiest countries.