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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Thursday, 09.04.2020, 03:32

Nordic states lead in the Global “happiness index”

Eugene Eteris, BC, Riga/Copnehagen, 19.03.2018.Print version
World Happiness Report-2018 has shown that among ten “happiest countries” in the world there are five Scandinavian states: Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden. The Report acknowledges a clear advantage of a Nordic model’s development for other European states to emulate.

The World Happiness Report-2018 published by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network ranks 156 countries by happiness levels, based on six main “happiness factors”: GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity and level of corruption.

The World Happiness Report was written by a group of independent experts acting in their personal capacities; thus, views expressed in the report do not necessarily reflect official opinion of any organization, agency or programme of the United Nations.

About 6-7 thousand people were asked in the countries under review.



According to a Japanese concept, the happiness and “meaning of life” are rather complicated notions (see table below). No doubt, the “happiness” shall be treated accordingly, not just as a feeling of strictly personal satisfaction.


Report’s migration issues

New annual report is generally devoted to connecting happiness and well-being with the modern global challenge, i.e. immigrations’ issues.

Increasingly, with globalisation, the people of the world are on the move; and most of these migrants are seeking a happier life. Thus, the central issue in the World Happiness Report-2018 is an analysis of what the migrants are striving for.

The Report acknowledges that migrants are not the only people affected by their decision to move. Two other major groups of people are affected by migration too: a) those left behind in the area of origin, and b) those already living in the area of destination. The Report assesses the happiness consequences of migration for all groups: first for rural-urban migration within countries, and then for international migration.


“Happiness” situation in the Baltic States

Latvia ranks 53 on the list between Romania and Japan; Estonia ranks 63 -between Bolivia and Paraguay and Lithuania is in the 50 ranks -between Belize and Slovenia. Compared with the data from 2008, Latvia is one of the best in positive changes of happiness’s indices.

“Other signal success stories, the report notices, in countries with average life evaluation gains since 2008-2010, include Latvia and Bulgaria”.

All the top countries in the report tend to have high values for all six of the key variables that have been found to support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity, to such a degree that year to year changes in the top ranking are to be expected. (Report, p.41).  

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Urbanisation’s effect

Between 1990 and 2015 the fraction of people who live in towns rose from 30% to nearly 50%, and the numbers living in towns increased by over 1,5 billion people. A part of this came from natural population growth within towns or from villages becoming towns.

But at least half of it came from net migration into the towns. In the more developed parts of the world there was also some rural-urban migration, but most of that had already happened before 1990.


Remarkable consistency of results

John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia mentioned a “most striking finding of the report”: i.e. the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and those locally born. “Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose”, said Mr. Helliwell.

Among the best 20 countries in the 2018-Report are several EU states: 1. Finland; 2. Norway;  3. Denmark; 4. Iceland; 5. Switzerland; 6. Netherlands; 9. Sweden; 12. Austria; 14. Ireland; 15. Germany;16. Belgium; 17. Luxembourg and 19. United Kingdom.

France is at 23 place and Spain at 36 (the US at 18 place and Russia at 59). pp. 20-21.

The top 10 happiest countries are the same countries that were top-ranked in World Happiness Report-2017, although there has been some swapping of places, as is to be expected among countries so closely grouped in average scores.

The top five countries are the same ones that held the top five positions in World Happiness Report 2017, but Finland has vaulted from 5th place to the top of the rankings in 2018.  

The significant gains and losses are very unevenly distributed across the world, and sometimes also within continents. For example, in Western Europe there were 12 significant losses but only three significant gains. In Central and Eastern Europe, by contrast, these results were reversed, with 13 significant gains against two losses (Source, the Report, p. 26).

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