What’s the happiest country in the world? Finland, according to the U.N.
Every year the organization measures “subjective well-being” in its annual World Happiness Report. Nordic countries usually top the list, while war-torn nations and sub-Saharan African territories are typically at the bottom.
So what makes Finland so great? Apparently, its attitude towards immigration.
The report shows that the 10 happiest countries also scored the highest on immigrant happiness, suggesting that national contentment is tied to immigrants feeling feel safe and welcome in their new home. But that’s not the only thing that makes Finland special.
According to BBC News, the Finns love their saunas. The country has an estimated 3.3 million of them, meaning that there are enough steam rooms for more than every other person. Could the presence of saunas, known for their relaxing effects, be tied to happiness? Possibly, though the U.N.’s report did not explore the link.
Others attribute Finland’s happiness to other factors, such as infrastructure. Brianna Owens, an American teacher who lives in Finland’s second biggest city Espoo, says it’s the country’s public services that make it great.
“I think everything in this society is set up for people to be successful, starting with university and transportation that works really well,” Owens told Reuters.
On the other side of the equation, it’s important to identify what makes for an unhappy country. Burundi, located in East Africa, made the bottom of the list this year. Why?
Because human rights violations coupled with political corruption, economic instability, and violence have created a general sense of chaos and discontent within the region. Human beings, it turns out, are happiest in environments that are peaceful, prosperous, and transparent.
So how did the U.S. stack up on the list?
Of the 156 countries listed, the U.S. came in at 18, dropping four places from last year. Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said it’s due to health reasons.
“America’s subjective well-being is being systematically undermined by three interrelated epidemic diseases, notably obesity, substance abuse (especially opioid addiction), and depression,” Sachs wrote in the report.
The writing is on the wall: if the U.S. wants to be happier, it will have to address its healthcare crisis.