World Happiness Report 2023 is in!

The World Happiness Report 2023 has been released, and the ranking of the world’s happiest countries remains relatively stable. The top 10 countries are Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand. The report identifies six factors that play a significant role in supporting life evaluations: income, health, social support, freedom to make key life decisions, generosity, and the absence of corruption.

The least happy countries, unsurprisingly, are those that are victims of conflict, natural disasters, and hardship. The report notes that subjective wellbeing is not something that can be actively pursued, but rather the outcome of pursuing other goals.

Additionally, Finnish happiness may be due to their adjusted expectations for wellbeing and a connection to nature. The report also notes the startling discrepancy between wellness as a pursuit and societal wellbeing, with the average American having a worse record of life expectancy than their peers in other developed countries. Finally, physical exercise is noted as being critical to both physical and mental wellbeing.

The Concept of Subjective Wellbeing (Happiness) – The World Happiness Report of 2023 suggests that despite deteriorating GDP growth and other macro issues such as polarisation and fragmentation, the ranking of the happiest countries on earth remains constant. The report highlights six factors that play a predominant role in supporting life evaluations, including income, health, social support, freedom to make key life decisions, generosity, and an absence of corruption. The countries that generally top the list for general happiness are those that combine robust economies, a good quality of life, and pro-social behaviours. The report also highlights the least happy places on earth, which tend to be countries that are victims of conflicts, natural disasters, and much hardship.

What’s the Key to Achieving Optimal Wellbeing? The report suggests that subjective wellbeing or happiness is an aspiration rather than something that can be obtained by actively pursuing it or a permanent state of being. The Finns have consistently ranked as the happiest people on earth for the past six years, which could be attributed to their cultural concept of “Sisu.” This concept is embedded in the national culture and roughly translates as “determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness.” The report suggests that the Finnish people derive happiness and satisfaction from leading sustainable lives and being connected to nature. They tend to perceive financial success as being able to identify and meet basic needs, which leads to contentment and happiness.

Unexpected Incongruity Between the Pursuit of Wellness and Societal Wellbeing: The report highlights the disparity between the average American’s financial wellness and their overall wellbeing. Despite having a higher GDP per capita than their peers in the developed world, the average American is strikingly worse off in terms of wellbeing measures, particularly life expectancy. The report cites a recent study that shows the average American has a health-adjusted life expectancy of 65, which is the same as someone born in Blackpool, the British city that represents social decline and holds the record for the lowest life expectancy in the UK. The report suggests that excess deaths among the young, poor, and vulnerable, linked notably to overdoses and guns, contribute to this discrepancy.

The Gap in Physical Exercise – Physical activity plays a critical role in both physical and mental wellbeing. However, there is a physical exercise divide where individuals in developed countries tend to engage in less physical activity, leading to poor health outcomes. The report highlights the importance of promoting physical activity to improve overall wellbeing, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem.

Health, Income, having someone to rely on, a sense of freedom to make important life decisions, generosity, and the absence of corruption all play vital roles in supporting life evaluations.