Why Nordic countries might not be as happy as you think

Why Nordic countries might not be as happy as you think
Nordic countries like Finland and Norway may regularly come out on top of world happiness indexes for wellbeing year-on-year - but new research shows the happiness is far from universal.

A report authored by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen aims to provide a more nuanced picture of life in the Nordic nations - suggesting their reputations as utopias for happiness are masking significant problems for some parts of the population, especially young people.

The researchers behind In the Shadow of Happiness looked at data collected across five years between 2012-2016 to try and build a better picture of the so-called "happiness superpowers".

It asked people to mark their satisfaction with life out of 10 - with people above a seven categorised as thriving, fives and sixes as struggling and anyone scoring below a four deemed to be suffering.

It found that in total 12.3% of people living in the Nordic region said they were struggling or suffering, with 13.5% of young people ranking themselves as such. This level only worsened in the age bracket of 80 or above - a group more affected by issues like illness.

It found general health and mental health were both closely associated with happiness ratings - with unemployment, income and sociability also playing a role. By and large the report challenges our typical conception of the happiness trajectory of life - especially that we are all at our happiest while young.

Researchers found mental health to be one of the most significant barriers to subjective well-being. Their data found these problems being reported by young people in particular.

"More and more young people are getting lonely and stressed and having mental disorders," one of the report's authors, Michael Birkjaer, told the Guardian newspaper.

"We are seeing that this epidemic of mental illness and loneliness is reaching the shores of the Nordic countries."

In Denmark, 18.3% of people aged 16 to 24 said they suffered from poor mental health - with the number rising to 23.8% for women in that age bracket. Norway saw a 40% increase over the five-year-period of young people seeking help for mental health difficulties.

The report notes that in Finland, which ranked as the happiest world country in 2018, suicide was responsible for a third of all deaths among the age bracket. It found that young women consistently reported feeling depressed more than young men did. Source... 

James Koroma