Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Article Category

Article available in the following languages:

Why is Finland the world’s happiest country 6 years in a row?

A Finnish psychology expert, world-renowned speaker and guest lecturer explains.

Fundamental Research icon Fundamental Research

The World Happiness Report published annually on 20 March is out, and there’s no surprise at the top. For the sixth straight year, Finland is the world’s happiest nation. Since we can’t all move to Finland, what can we learn from them? “Is it, are they doing things that we wish we’d seen before and we can start doing? Or is it something unique about their climate and history that make them different? And fortunately, at least from my perspective, the answer is the former,” explained Prof. John Helliwell, one of the report’s authors, to ‘CNN’. Dr Frank Martela is a psychology researcher who studies the basics of happiness. He is also a lecturer at Aalto University in Finland. In a ‘CNBC’ article from January 2023, he puts forward three things Finns never do to maintain a high quality of life.

Don’t show, don’t tell

Firstly, Finns don’t compare themselves to their neighbours. “There’s a famous line by a Finnish poet: ‘Kell’ onni on, se onnen kätkeköön.’ Roughly translated, it means: Don’t compare or brag about your happiness. Finns really take this to heart, especially when it comes to material things and overt displays of wealth.” “Focus more on what makes you happy and less on looking successful. The first step to true happiness is to set your own standards, instead of comparing yourself to others.”

Nature and trust

Secondly, Finns don’t ignore nature’s benefits. According to a 2021 survey, almost 90 % of them consider nature to be an important part of their lives. Employees are entitled to 4 weeks of summer holidays and 1 week during winter. The countryside is a very popular destination. “Spending time in nature increases our vitality, well-being and a [sic] gives us a sense of personal growth. Find ways to add some greenery to your life, even if it’s just buying a few plants for your home.” Last but not least, Finns don’t break the circle of trust within their communities. They trust each other and attach great importance to honesty, as shown in a 2022 social experiment aimed to test the honesty of citizens. In total, 192 wallets were dropped in 16 cities around the world. Helsinki came in first when citizens returned 11 out of 12 wallets to their owners. Mumbai, India, came in second with nine. “Think about how you can show up for your community. How can you create more trust? How can you support policies that build upon that trust? Small acts like opening doors for strangers or giving up a seat on the train makes a difference, too.”


Finland, happiness, happy, nature, trust, honesty, Finn, World Happiness Report