The world’s happiest countries revealed: Finland keeps the top spot

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Finland has been named the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row by the World Happiness Report – and Afghanistan ranked the bleakest.

The annual United Nations World Happiness Report ranks over 150 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, according to their evaluations of their own lives. 

Denmark takes the No.2 spot in 2020’s study, followed by Switzerland in third place and Iceland in fourth. The UK climbs two places to 13th and the U.S is up one place to 18th. 

Finland - where ice swimming is popular - has been named the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row by the World Happiness Report

Finland – where ice swimming is popular – has been named the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row by the World Happiness Report

Denmark is the second happiest country on earth, according to the UN. Pictured is the capital city, Copenhagen

Denmark is the second happiest country on earth, according to the UN. Pictured is the capital city, Copenhagen

THE HAPPIEST AND LEAST HAPPIEST COUNTRIES AND CITIES IN THE WORLD

HAPPIEST COUNTRIES

1. Finland

2. Denmark

3. Switzerland

4. Iceland

5. Norway

6. The Netherlands

7. Sweden

8. New Zealand

9. Luxembourg

10. Austria

11. Canada

12. Australia

13. UK

14. Israel

15. Costa Rica

16. Ireland

17. Germany

18. US

19. Czech Republic

20. Belgium

LEAST HAPPY COUNTRIES  

1.  Afghanistan

2. South Sudan

3. Zimbabwe

4. Rwanda

5. Central African Republic

6. Tanzania

7. Botswana

8. Yemen

9. Malawi

10. India

11. Lesotho

12. Haiti

13. Zambia

14.  Burundi

15. Sierra Leone

16. Egypt

17. Madagascar 

18. Ethiopia 

19. Togo 

20. Comoros 

HAPPIEST CITIES  

1.  Helsinki, Finland 

2. Aarhus, Denmark

3. Wellington, New Zealand  

4. Zurich, Switzerland

5.  Copenhagen, Denmark

6. Bergen, Norway

7. Oslo, Norway

8. Tel Aviv, Israel

9. Stockholm, Sweden

10. Brisbane, Australia 

11. San Jose, Costa Rica 

12. Reykjavik, Iceland 

13. Toronto Metro, Canada 

14. Melbourne, Australia 

15. Perth, Australia 

16. Auckland, New Zealand 

17. Christchurch, New Zealand 

18. Washington, USA

19. Dallas, USA

20. Sydney, Australia 

LEAST HAPPY CITIES

1. Kabul, Afghanistan 

2.  Sanaa, Yemen

3. Gaza, Palestine 

4. Port-au-Prince, Haiti

5. Juba, South Sudan 

6. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

7. Delhi, India

8. Maseru, Lesotho

9. Bangui, CAR

10. Cairo, Egypt 

11. Kigali, Rwanda 

12. Kumasi, Ghana

13. Khartoum, Sudan 

14. Monrovia, Liberia 

15. Antananarivo, Madagascar 

16. Harare, Zimbabwe 

17. Colombo, Sri Lanka 

18. Lome, Togo 

19. Gaborone, Botswana 

20.  Phnom Penh, Cambodia 

 

The remaining countries in the top ten are Norway (5th), the Netherlands (6th), Sweden (7th), New Zealand (8th), and Austria (9th), followed by top-10 newcomer Luxembourg. 

Joining Afghanistan (153rd) at the bottom of the table are South Sudan (152nd), Zimbabwe (151st), Rwanda (150th), Central African Republic (149th), Tanzania (148th), Botswana (147th), Yemen (146th), Malawi (145th) and India (144th).   

In addition to the country rankings, the World Happiness Report 2020, for the first time, has ranked cities around the world according to subjective wellbeing.

The report shows that in general the happiness ranking of cities is almost identical to that of the countries in which they are located. And it comes as no surprise that the happiest city is Finland’s capital, Helsinki.

Switzerland is the third happiest country in the world. And with scenery like this, it's not a surprising result

Switzerland is the third happiest country in the world. And with scenery like this, it’s not a surprising result

The UK climbs two places to take the 13th slot in the ranking

The UK climbs two places to take the 13th slot in the ranking

Filling out the rest of the top ten are Aarhus, Denmark (2nd); Wellington, New Zealand (3rd); Zurich, Switzerland (4th); Copenhagen, Denmark (5th); Bergen, Norway (6th); Oslo, Norway (7th); Tel Aviv, Israel (8th); Stockholm, Sweden (9th), and Brisbane, Australia (10th).

Meanwhile, Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan (186th), is at the bottom of the table followed by Sanaa in Yemen (185th) and Gaza in Palestine (184th). Above those are Port-au-Prince, Haiti (183rd); Juba, South Sudan (182nd); Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (181st); Delhi, India (180th); Maseru, Lesotho (179th); Bangui, CAR (178th), and Cairo in Egypt (177th). 

Afghanistan and its capital, Kabul (pictured), have been ranked the least happy country and city in the world

Afghanistan and its capital, Kabul (pictured), have been ranked the least happy country and city in the world

Professor John F. Helliwell of the University of British Columbia, who co-edited the report, said: ‘A happy social environment, whether urban or rural, is one where people feel a sense of belonging, where they trust and enjoy each other and their shared institutions.

‘There is also more resilience, because shared trust reduces the burden of hardships, and thereby lessens the inequality of wellbeing.’ 

While Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, director of the wellbeing research centre at the University of Oxford, commented: ‘Generally, we find that the average happiness of city residents is more often than not higher than the average happiness of the general country population, especially in countries at the lower end of economic development.

‘But this urban happiness advantage evaporates and sometimes turns negative for cities in high-income countries, suggesting that the search for happiness may well be more fruitful when looking to live in more rural areas.’

REVEALED: HOW TO FIND YOUR FINNISH CALM 

According to VisitFinland, the Finnish tourist board, getting out in nature is  the country’s secret to happiness because it helps to slow down and calm the mind. Here are some simple tips on how you can bring some Finnish calm into your home…

1. Start your day with a cold shower  

The Finns love winter swimming as much as they love the sauna. The secret of plunging into icy water lies in the feeling that surges through your body once you get out of the water – as soon as you’re back on dry land your circulation kicks in and your body starts to warm up and makes you feel happy. Your body is producing the mood-balancing hormone serotonin with dopamine, and stress starts to melt away. The easiest way to do this at home is to take an ice-cold shower for a couple of minutes, first thing in the morning. 

2. Make sense of the world by reading 

Books are close to Finns’ hearts and there are many libraries in Finland, with Helsinki’s Oodi being the newest library to open in 2019. In 2016 the United Nations named Finland the world’s most literate nation, and Finns are among the world’s most enthusiastic users of public libraries. The country, which has a population of 5.5 million, borrows close to 68 million books a year. 

3. Experience a relaxing forest path on your sofa 

According to VisitFinland, getting out in nature country's secret to happiness because it helps to slow down and calm the mind

According to VisitFinland, getting out in nature country’s secret to happiness because it helps to slow down and calm the mind

There is something magical about the forest and the Finnish soul has always been linked with it. The green colour is calming and the gentle rustling of the leaves and pine needles is like music. It has been scientifically proven that only 15 minutes in the forest calms your pulse and your body starts to rest. So, close your eyes, stretch yourself on the sofa, and have an imaginary sound trip (playlist here) to the Finnish forest. 

4. Make the world a better (and tastier) place by baking a cinnamon bun

Korvapuusti translates into ‘slapped ears’ in English, but they are essentially cinnamon buns baked Finnish style with a dash of cardamom. Finns love their coffee (they drink almost 10kg per person per year) and korvapuusti so much that there is actually a particular word for it, ‘pullakahvit’, which literally means bun coffee. Cinnamon buns are the perfect comfort food and baked at home (click here for a recipe) they bring a cosy smell to the kitchen. 

5. Use art as a stress-reliever 

Finland’s contemporary art scene embraces everything from experimental artist-run initiatives and commercial galleries to flagship art institutions. There are more than 55 art museums and numerous art galleries packed into the city. The Finns use art to calm the mind and transport their thoughts to stress-free comforting places. 

Take a virtual trip from your own sofa to the Finnish museums to understand how art is a tool for happiness. In March 2020, Amos Rex won the prestigious LCD (Leading Culture Destination) Award for New Cultural Destination of the Year – Europe. Have a virtual tour of the new museum to see the new Generation 2020 exhibition in their Instagram Stories. If you want to discover Lapland, head to Rovaniemi Art Museum located in the Arctic Circle. Its main focus is on Finnish Contemporary Art and Northern Art. Culture Vultures on the search for something more classical should pay a visit to Ateneum Art Museum. The Ateneum Art Museum’s collection in Helsinki includes more than 450 works by famous Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela.



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