Finns are a happy bunch, but Americans could use a laugh

Finns have the reputation for being a dour, stoic lot. But guess what? The World Happiness Report, published Wednesday, ranked 156 countries by happiness levels and Finland was No. 1.

The factors used included life expectancy, social support and corruption, but this year the report — published by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network — also for the first time, took into account in 117 countries the happiness and well-being of immigrants.

In reaching No. 1, Finland pushed Norway into second place. Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. The United States was in 18th place down from 14th last year.

John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, noted all the top-10 nations scored highest in overall happiness and the happiness of immigrants. He said a society’s happiness seems contagious.

“The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born,” Helliwell said in The Associated Press story Wednesday. “Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose.”

Many here in the Upper Peninsula have Finnish roots and probably take at least a bit of pride that the land of their ancestors is No. 1 in happiness. Heck, with the five Nordic countries dominating the list, many Yoopers can point to the list with glee.

However, ancestral pride aside, we also are Americans, and this county’s drop to 18th place is disheartening. The U.S. has never been in the list’s top 10.

According to the report: “The U.S. is in the midst of a complex and worsening public health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards.”

The report added that the “sociopolitical system” in the United States produces more income inequality — a major contributing factor to unhappiness — than other countries with comparatively high incomes. The United States also has seen declining “trust, generosity and social support, and those are some of the factors that explain why some countries are happier than others,” according to one of the story’s authors.

After the recent Spread Goodness Day, which originated with Marquette resident Anna Dravland, we know people are excited to perform acts of kindness. We hope the U.P. continues to set an example in being of kind spirit, maybe creating more interest in happiness among our fellow Americans.

As Dravland’s day proved, with a little effort, we can each contribute to our world being a little brighter, a little happier.

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