Table 7.1 shows that the Netherlands and Switzerland are in essence indistinguishable from the Nordic countries on the examined six factors: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption. The Netherlands and Switzerland, along with the Nordic countries, rank high not only in life satisfaction, but also in social support, freedom to make life choices, and lack of corruption. In fact, the Nordic countries occupy the top positions across the world for social support, and are all in top ten for freedom. For lack of corruption, the Nordic countries are otherwise in the global top ten, but Iceland is surprisingly only 36th. This may reflect a recent banking crisis that revealed major economic and social irregularities among the Icelandic elite, which would make this low position temporary. As regards generosity, measured by how much people donate money to charity, there is more variability within the Nordic countries, with Finland being below world average and only Iceland making it into the top 10. This result might be specific to charity donations, because the Nordic countries tend to have high scores for comparisons of other types of prosocial behavior such as volunteering. As regards healthy life expectancy, the Nordic countries are found in spots from 13 to 27. This is relatively high, but not best in the world. However, differences between countries are rather small in this variable. Thus, it seems that what unites the Nordic countries as regards these predictors of life satisfaction is high levels of social support, freedom to make life choices, and lack of corruption.
Finally, it is worth noting that high Nordic happiness levels are dependent on the measure of happiness used. The World Happiness Report and most other international comparisons use general life evaluation as the measure of citizen happiness. In the WHR, people are asked to make a general evaluation of their life on a Cantril ladder scale from 0 to 10, with the worst possible life as 0 and the best possible life as 10. In these studies, we consistently find the Nordic countries are the happiest in the world.
The key difficulty in explaining Nordic exceptionalism is that the Nordic countries rank highly on such a number of well-being predicting indicators that it is hard to disentangle cause and effect. There are a cluster of factors that tend to co-occur, including high life satisfaction, high levels of social and institutional trust, high-quality democratic institutions, extensive welfare benefits, and social-economic equality, and this cluster of factors is nowhere else so strong as in the Nordics. However, from the point of view of policy-makers interested in replicating the Nordic model, it is not particularly helpful to know just that all of these positive factors are concentrated in the same countries; rather, policy-makers need concrete ways to produce higher levels of happiness, and those can be hard to find. For example, Rothstein and Uslaner argue that if a country is trapped in a vicious cycle of low social and institutional trust, high corruption, and high levels of inequality, it can be hard to build the citizen and public servant trust needed to make the necessary reforms for a more trustworthy and representative system that serves all citizens equally. The Nordic countries, in contrast, are arguably caught up in a virtuous cycle, where well-functioning and democratic institutions are able to provide citizens extensive benefits and security, so that citizens trust institutions and each other, which leads them to vote for parties that promise to preserve the welfare model. Both of these situations might be thought of as relatively stable, and thus, the crucial question is how to get from a low-trust equilibrium to a high-trust equilibrium. Here, a historical look into how the Nordic countries made this leap provides some insight.
Thus, institutionally, building a government that is trustworthy and functions well, and culturally, building a sense of community and unity among the citizens are the most crucial steps towards a society where people are happy. While the Nordic countries took their own particular paths to their current welfare state model, each country must follow its own path. If citizen well-being and happiness are truly the goals of government, then taking seriously research on institutional and cultural determinants of citizen happiness is the first step in starting an evidence-based journey towards fulfilling that goal.
The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The World Happiness Report 2020 for the first time ranks cities around the world by their subjective well-being and digs more deeply into how the social, urban and natural environments combine to affect our happiness.
The preparation of the first World Happiness Report was based in the Earth Institute at Columbia University, with the research support of the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, through their grants supporting research at the Vancouver School of Economics at UBC. The central base for the reports has since 2013 been the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and The Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University directed by Jeffrey D. Sachs. Although the editors and authors are volunteers, there are administrative and research support costs, covered most recently through a series of research grants from the Ernesto Illy Foundation and illycaffè.
Sharon Paculor has for several years been the central figure in the production of the reports, and we now wish to recognize her long-standing dedication and excellent work with the title of Production Editor. The management of media has for many years been managed with great skill by Kyu Lee of the Earth Institute, and we are very grateful for all he does to make the reports widely accessible. Ryan Swaney has been our web designer since 2013, and Stislow Design has done our graphic design work over the same period. Juliana Bartels, a new recruit this year, has provided an important addition to our editorial and proof-reading capacities. All have worked on very tight timetables with great care and friendly courtesy.
Since most of us spend a great deal of our lives working, it is inevitable that work plays a key role in shaping our levels of happiness. 1 Many are fortunate to have fulfilling and rewarding careers that help contribute to their overall sense of well-being, but unfortunately others find work to be a source of unhappiness, unwanted stress, and frustration. How does work contribute to your relative level of happiness?
The general characteristics relating to happiness in this study were age, education level, household members, marital status, hiring employees, economic status, and perceived health status. In other words, the self-employed felt happier when they were younger, had cohabitants or more stable family structures, had a higher economic status, and had a positive perception of their health. These findings have been consistently confirmed in other, previous studies [23,31,32,36,37], and similar results were also found in the study of wage workers [38,39]. This study did not confirm the Easterlin paradox that higher income does not lead to greater happiness . This was similar to the Dutch case and in contrast to the Japanese case in a study comparing the determinants of happiness in Japan and the Netherlands . A formal mechanism of the Easterlin paradox reported recently in China was that with economic growth, material needs upgrade to enjoyment needs, and return to well-being from material conditions decreases . Therefore, it can be interpreted that these mechanisms do not yet work for the self-employed in Korea. Meanwhile, higher happiness levels were also reported by participants who had attended higher education (college graduation or higher). This is consistent with the results of several studies conducted in South Korea [31,32,38,39] but differs from the findings of a self-employed study in the United States . This difference is thought to be related to the socio-cultural context whereby educational background is highly valued in Korean society and recognized as a powerful means of realizing social success . Additionally, higher happiness levels were reported by those who hired employees in the present study. This result is inconsistent with UK freelancers, who reported greater life and leisure satisfaction than those who were self-employed with employees . This difference is interpreted as attributable to the characteristics of self-employment in South Korea, where the proportion of small-scale self-employment is high, and their profits and management stability are low . Considering these results, it is necessary to consider the socio-cultural context holistically, to promote or to evaluate individual happiness.
An extensive study into happiness and productivity has found that workers are 13% more productive when happy. The research was conducted in the contact centres of British telecoms firm BT over a six month period by Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (Saïd Business School, University of Oxford) George Ward (MIT) and Clement Bellet (Erasmus University Rotterdam).
A significant body of evidence demonstrates that when making important decisions such as whether to migrate, most people choose the option they think will make them or their families happiest, with concrete motives (economic opportunities, being closer to family, etc.) being instrumental to this aim. The concept of happiness (or subjective well-being, for its focus on the subjective experience of life as a whole) is thus well-positioned to evaluate the broader consequences of migration for those who move voluntarily, other stakeholders in migration and, to a more limited extent, refugees. 2b1af7f3a8