Why Finland Was Just Named the Happiest Country in the World for the 7th Year in a Row

Photo: Getty Images / Cavan Images
Feelin’ down? According to the 2024 World Happiness Report, maybe you should book a flight to Finland, which was just named the world's happiest country by the United Nations (UN) and Gallup Poll for the seventh (!) consecutive year. Happiness in Western Europe and North America, however, has declined, with the United States falling to number 23—an all-time low since the report’s inception in 2012.

The report, which was released on March 20 in honor of the UN’s International Day of Happiness, was compiled using surveys of 100,000-plus people living in 143 countries conducted over the past three years. Participants were asked to rate their current life satisfaction on a ladder scale of 1 to 10, with 10 reflecting maximum satisfaction. And the researchers evaluated variables like social support, gross domestic product (GDP), life expectancy, freedom, and confidence in government for each country to help contextualize the participants' life satisfaction ratings.

Taking those factors into account, Finland came out on top in terms of happiness. And its nearby neighbors weren't far behind; in fact, every country that makes up the Nordic region—Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway—ranked in the top 10 on the list.

What country has the best life satisfaction?

The results are in: Finnish people are living the good (like, really good) life. According to the report, each of the Nordic countries has remained consistent in their rankings since before the pandemic, suggesting that their ability to adapt to the changing tides of the pandemic years may be both a cause and an effect of their sustained happiness.

Findings from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index also put Finland ahead of the average country in key areas such as education, work-life balance, environmental quality, social connections, safety, and life satisfaction.

Why is Finland the world's happiest country?

Whereas some of the factors that contribute to Finland's high ranking above speak to governmental institutions and economic realities, others are connected more to the Finnish approach to life and the happiness concepts ingrained in Nordic culture.

In particular, the Finns embrace a concept called sisu, which translates roughly to "resilience" or "perseverance." In practice, it looks like challenging yourself to uncover your deepest reserves of strength whenever you want to give up, leaning on past positive experiences when you think you "can't" make it through something, and turning to logic rather than emotion to stay calm amid chaos. You won't be surprised to learn that such a resilient outlook has been associated with stronger mental health1. (It's no wonder the Finns' life satisfaction rating barely wavered during all those unprecedented COVID times.)

The social support of the Finns is another reason why the country continues to rank so highly. According to the Better Life Index (linked above), 96 percent of Finns believe they know someone who they can rely on in a time of need—roughly five percent more than the world’s average. That's an especially powerful thing amid a global loneliness crisis, and not just because loneliness can certainly decrease life satisfaction and happiness; it's also been shown to have negative health effects, increasing a person's risk for heart disease, stroke, and addiction.

Also contributing to the Finns' overall life satisfaction, happiness, and feelings of social connectedness is the country's rich sauna culture. In a nation of 5.5 million people, there are roughly 3.3 million saunas, which just goes to show the popularity of the practice. And for the Finns, paying a visit to the sauna isn't just about reaping the physical health benefits of getting a good sweat on; it's equally about taking a break from the demands of life, finding a few moments of peace, and connecting with others—all of which undoubtedly factor into the Finnish people's sense of happiness, too.

In the wake of Finland snagging the "world's happiest country" title for the sixth time last year, the country's tourism board invited 14 people from around the world to join a four-day Masterclass of Happiness program last summer, after which the key Finnish lessons for happiness were compiled in online video tutorials. Applications to join this year's five-day happiness trip taking place in the nation's capitol in June, the Helsinki Happiness Hacks Masterclass, are now live through April 4, 2024.

Where does the US rank in happiness?

Based on this year’s World Happiness Report, there couldn’t be a better time for people in the States to employ some Finnish happiness hacks. The United States fell to number 23 on the report—a steep drop from last year’s spot at number 15 and a new low for the nation.

According to the researchers behind the report, that’s due in part to other nations getting happier within the last few years, as well as lower levels of happiness among younger people, in particular, across the 50 states. This year’s iteration of the report was the first one to categorize survey respondents by age. In the United States, happiness scores from younger people (30 and below) were much lower than those from people above the age of 60, reflecting the particular rise of mental health issues like anxiety and the growing loneliness epidemic among young people in this country.

The 10 happiest countries in 2024:

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Sweden
  5. Israel
  6. Netherlands
  7. Norway
  8. Luxembourg
  9. Switzerland
  10. Australia

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Färber, Francesca, and Jenny Rosendahl. “The Association Between Resilience and Mental Health in the Somatically Ill.” Deutsches Arzteblatt international vol. 115,38 (2018): 621-627. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2018.0621

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