March 20, 2020 / 2:04 PM / 13 days ago

Advice from happiest nation Finland: care for each other, value learning

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Advice from the world’s happiest country - give all your kids the best possible education and care for each other and the environment, especially at this time of global crisis caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

FILE PHOTO: The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is seen in the sky in Ivalo of Lapland, Finland September 27, 2019. Picture taken September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Alexander Kuznetsov/File Photo

Finland has topped the annual global survey on happiness for the third year running, an accolade Prime Minister Sanna Marin said was all the more appreciated at a time when the coronavirus epidemic is testing the values and institutions of all nations.

The survey also ranked Helsinki, the Finnish capital, as the happiest city in the world, in an additional boost for the Nordic nation of 5.5 million people best known for its lakes, saunas and long, cold winters.

“In essence this index says that the Finnish welfare state gives everyone an opportunity for well-being in life,” she told a news conference on Friday held by video link to help counter the spread of coronavirus.

Asked whether Finland could remain the happiest nation in the face of the epidemic, Marin said: “... I believe Finnish grit will take us through this and together we will build a country which is a good place to be for every child.”

Finland has so far reported 450 cases of coronavirus and no deaths. Marin’s government earlier on Friday announced a 15 billion euro ($16.2 billion) aid package, ranging from loan guarantees to labour market support, as the central bank warned the economy could shrink this year by up to 4%.

SOCIAL TRUST

The U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (SDSN) 2020 World Happiness Report ranked 156 countries according to their scores for things such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and absence of corruption.

The other happiest countries in the top-10, in descending order, were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Austria.

The United States came in at 18th and Britain was 13th.

“Time and again we see the reasons for wellbeing include good social support networks, social trust, honest governments, safe environments, and healthy lives,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of SDSN and one of the editors of the report, said in a statement.

For the first time since the report began in 2012, it also ranked the happiness of cities around the world based on subjective feelings of well-being. That survey ranked 186 cities worldwide, with Helsinki coming out on top.

The U.N. survey uses a variety of polling organisations, official figures and research methods to calculate the rankings.

“This was happy news this morning,” said Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson.

“We are used to getting through tough times by doing things together. This is the way to weather this crisis too and to be the happiest country next year too.”

Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Gareth Jones

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