Finland and Helsinki top the new World Happiness Report

The reports asked residents to estimate how happy they are with their lives.

File picture of waving Finnish flag, with Helsinki in the background / Credit: iStock

Finland has been ranked as the world’s happiest country for the third year in a row.

The World Happiness Report is produced by the United Nations in partnership with a number of leading universities and foundations, and takes an annual look at 156 countries and ranks them by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

The survey takes into account different social aspects like having someone to count on, trust and equality, as well as environmental factors like pollution and climate.

“The World Happiness Report has proven to be an indispensable tool for policymakers looking to better understand what makes people happy and thereby to promote the wellbeing of their citizenry” says Professor Jeffrey Sachs from the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

“Time and again we see the reasons for wellbeing include good social support networks, social trust, honest governments, safe environments, and healthy lives” he adds.

Joining Finland in the top five are Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway with Sweden in 7th position.

Further down the list are UK in 13th position, Germany in 17th, USA in 18th. At the opposite end of the list are the countries where residents say they’re not happy with their life situation: Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Afghanistan.

“Happiness inequality significantly reduces average life evaluations” says Professor Richard Layard, co-director of the Well-Being Programme at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance.

“This means that people are happier to live in societies without extreme disparity in the quality of life.”

Global cities ranked for happiness 

For the first time this year the study also ranked the world’s happiest cities with Helsinki coming out in the number one spot.

More than half of the world’s population are living in urban areas, and this number is expected to increase by 1.5 times in 2045.

Researchers asked local residents to self-report on their own quality of life.

Helsinki came out on top as having the happiest residents among 160 cities which were surveyed.

Aarhus in Denmark, Wellington in New Zealand, Zurich in Switzerland and Copenhagen rounded out the top five.

Oslo ranks at number seven; Stockholm comes in at number nine; Reykjavik at 12; New York at 30; London at 36 and Paris at 43.

At the other end of the scale: Gaza in Palestine ranked 184th; Sanaa in Yemen 185th and Kabul in Afghanistan 186th.