World Happiness: Finland takes top ranking for third year in a row

Finland Global Happiness
Finland Global Happiness Copyright David Goldman/Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
By Luke Hurst
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Nordic countries maintain their grip on the World #Happiness Ranking's top spots, which assesses variables such as GDP, social support, life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption. #WorldHappinessDay


Finland has been named the world’s happiest country for the third year in a row, maintaining the Nordic grip on the World Happiness Report’s top spots.

The rankings are based on polling which looks at six variables: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.

Since its launch in 2012, just four countries have taken the top spot: Denmark in 2012, 2013 and 2016, Switzerland in 2015, Norway in 2017, and Finland in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The report is released by the UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network, using data from the Gallup World Poll.

The ten happiest countries in 2020 according to the report are:

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Switzerland
  4. Iceland
  5. Norway
  6. The Netherlands
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Austria
  10. Luxembourg

The secret to happiness

Since 2013 the five Nordic countries – Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland – have all been in the top ten of the annual list. So what are they doing right?

According to the report, the happiest countries tend to have high levels of variables that support well-being. These include income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, and freedom.

This year's survey also took a closer look at environmental factors in determining a person's state of happiness, with data on pollution levels, climate and temperatures taken into account.

And it also takes in the effects of inequality, and how social environments can help mitigate the effects of inequality.

It suggests one secret to Nordic happiness is the Nordic welfare state, which allows for relatively generous benefits, and regulation of the work market to avoid exploitation.

Studies also show the quality of government and public institutions are important for national a satisfaction, with Nordic countries occupying top spots in this area.

Furthermore the relatively high income levels couples with well-functioning democracies means a higher sense of autonomy and freedom in these nations, while social cohesion has also been found to be a strong indicator of happiness within a country.

The ten least happy:

  • India
  • Malawi
  • Yemen
  • Botswana
  • Tanzania
  • Central African Republic
  • Rwanda
  • Zimbabwe
  • South Sudan
  • Afghanistan
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