Dark Days Finland World’s Happiest Place, Sunny Greece Just 58th

ATHENS – Sunny days, warm weather, the Mediterranean Diet, lazy days, the prospect of living longer haven’t made Greeks as gleeful as the tourism slogans might indicate because the country ranks only 58th in the World Happiness Report.

Overseen by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the report is released every year in honor of the International Day of Happiness on March 20, the first day of spring when hope is supposed to spring eternal.

The ranking of the countries is based on data from sources like the Gallup World Poll, based on six key factors: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity and absence of corruption.

There was also an apparent link with corruption as Finland – where the sun shines only six hours a day in winter – was the happiest place in the world for the sixth year in a row and also tied with Denmark and New Zealand as least corrupt.

Just like its ranking for happiness, Greece was 58th on the corruption index, tied with Armenia, Jordan and Namibia by Transparency International, Greece unable to cut into the perpetual problem and it reputation.

On the happiness scale, Greece was also behind Romania, the United Arab Emirates, repressive Saudi Arabia, drug cartel violence Mexico, and near dictatorships like Nicaragua, Kazakhstan and just ahead of Mauritius and Thailand. Cyprus was 46th in the index.

Behind Finland in the top 10 happiest were Denmark, Iceland, Israel – which worries about terrorist rocket attacks – The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, money haven Luxembourg and New Zealand.

The United States was 15th despite almost being disunited by partisan politics and worries about gun violence and mass shootings on an almost daily basis and even families and friends torn asunder by political differences.

This year’s list looks like those of the past four years, even during the now waning COVID-19 pandemic, with Denmark and Iceland keeping their positions at 2nd and 3d and Scandinavian countries atop the index again.

“The Nordic countries merit special attention in light of their generally high levels of both personal and institutional trust,” the report said, noting they also had lower COVID death rates than elsewhere in Western Europe.

“Finland continues to occupy the top spot, for the sixth year in a row, with a score that is significantly ahead of all other countries,” the report said, and there were plenty of good reasons why.

Aalto University lecturer of Finland Frank Martela told Forbes magazine that the country “seems to excel here because of the Finnish welfare system’s ability to help its citizens feel taken care of.”

He added: “Things like relatively generous unemployment benefits and nearly free healthcare help mitigate sources of unhappiness, ensuring that there are fewer people in Finland who are highly unsatisfied with their lives.’’


Finland’s urban planning also makes people feel healthy and safe. “A person’s environment plays a big role in their happiness which makes the topic of health promotion in cities very important,” said Aalto University Professor Marketta Kyttä. “It’s closely related to social sustainability and whether you feel connected to your community,” she said, factors which would seem to be in place in Greece where family and friends are valued and there’s also frequent social dining together.

The lowest ranking countries were war-torn Afghanistan and Lebanon, thousands of Afghans trying to reach the European Union, many winding up in Greece seeking asylum. At the bottom were African countries Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Congo.


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