Why Finland & Denmark Are Happier Than the United States

We may nev­er con­vince the greed­i­est among us that mon­ey won’t buy hap­pi­ness. But if we weren’t per­suad­ed before the pan­dem­ic, it seems more of us are now, since thou­sands of work­ers refuse to return to exploita­tive con­di­tions. “The Covid job mar­ket,” the Har­vard Busi­ness Review admits, “is not like 2008, nor real­ly like any­thing any­one has observed since the birth of mod­ern cap­i­tal­ism.” This obser­va­tion comes amidst a dis­cus­sion of the fac­tors influ­enc­ing hir­ing, but most econ­o­mist-speak avoids the emo­tion­al lan­guage we use to talk about our jobs.

The fact is, most of us are stressed out, unhap­py, over­worked, and under­paid, with lit­tle in terms of pub­lic pol­i­cy or cor­po­rate ben­e­fits to help reduce the bur­dens on the aver­age Amer­i­can work­er. It’s far worse for oth­er work­ers around the world. “The aver­age US work­week is 38.6 hours,” notes Busi­ness Insid­er. “That may feel like for­ev­er to some peo­ple, but it’s noth­ing com­pared to some coun­tries’ work­weeks.” Work­ers in Colom­bia, for exam­ple, spend an aver­age of 47.7 hours at work.

Much of that time could be spent car­ing for our­selves and our fam­i­lies, and lock­downs, quar­an­tines, shel­ter-in-place and work-from-home orders have giv­en us time to recon­sid­er how we’ve been liv­ing. As we do, we might look to Fin­land and Den­mark, where peo­ple pro­fess some of the high­est rates of hap­pi­ness in the world, accord­ing to the most recent World Hap­pi­ness Report, a series of mea­sures co-cre­at­ed by Jef­frey Sachs, Direc­tor of Colum­bia University’s Cen­ter for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment.

“In a lam­en­ta­ble year,” the report points out, “Fin­land again is the hap­pi­est coun­try in the world.” Den­mark isn’t far behind. What does this mean? “It’s not pri­mar­i­ly a mea­sure of whether one laughed or smiled yes­ter­day,” says Sachs, “but how one feels about the course of one’s life.” This feel­ing is mea­sured accord­ing to “six areas of life sat­is­fac­tion,” CNBC notes in an intro­duc­tion to the video above — a short doc­u­men­tary on Finnish and Dan­ish hap­pi­ness — includ­ing “income, healthy life expectan­cy, social sup­port, free­dom, trust and gen­eros­i­ty.”

“We need urgent­ly to learn from Covid-19,” says Sachs. “The pan­dem­ic reminds us of our glob­al envi­ron­men­tal threats, the urgent need to coop­er­ate, and the dif­fi­cul­ties of achiev­ing coop­er­a­tion in each coun­try and glob­al­ly. The World Hap­pi­ness Report 2021 reminds us that we must aim for well­be­ing rather than mere wealth, which will be fleet­ing indeed if we don’t do a much bet­ter job of address­ing the chal­lenges of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.” Learn what makes the Finns and Danes so hap­py in the video above (spoil­er: it isn’t exor­bi­tant salaries) and learn more about why peo­ple in the “hap­pi­est” coun­tries thrive at the World Hap­pi­ness Report.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Cre­ativ­i­ty, Not Mon­ey, is the Key to Hap­pi­ness: Dis­cov­er Psy­chol­o­gist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s The­o­ry of “Flow”

How Much Mon­ey Do You Need to Be Hap­py? A New Study Gives Us Some Exact Fig­ures

The Keys to Hap­pi­ness: The Emerg­ing Sci­ence and the Upcom­ing MOOC by Raj Raghu­nathan

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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