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Is the World Happiness Report of any relevance?

Isa Senkumba

Is the World Happiness Report of any relevance?

It has been a conventional belief that happiness is a choice especially for those who have lent an ear to the so many motivational and inspirational talks. In the process we tend to ignore the bitter fact that we actually need a reason to be happy sometimes. We appreciate the few isolated cases of individual happiness in almost every community but it is more logical to take a look at the general happiness of a community or country and ask ourselves why one community maybe happier than another. This knowledge at our disposal maybe used to foster happiness and make our communities a better place to live in.

Is it possible for Icy Finland to have happier people than Uganda?

Let’s take a look at the world happiness index. Every year, at least for the last ten years, the United Nations (UN) releases the world Happiness Report which is an indicator of global happiness. Counties are ranked based on reports of respondents’ assessments of their own lives, and articles on national happiness which represent all elements influencing the quality of life in these countries including personal well-being, life expectancy, levels of GDP and others. According to the World Happiness Report released in March 2022, Finland was named the happiest nation in the world, making it the fifth time the country is taking up that position in a row.

For a happiness index that ranges from 0 to 10, Finland scored 7.842 followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and The Netherlands in that order. Uganda at an index of 4.636 is the happiest country in East Africa followed by Kenya at 4.607. We are however more interested in knowing why citizens of one country would be happier than their counterparts in another. This time round it goes beyond just a choice to be happy. There are reasons to explain this.

It is quite surprising that a country at one corner of the world with two hundred days of winter, two whole months where the sun never rises above the horizon and with temperatures that can drop to 20 degrees below zero is instead the happiest country in the world. Despite all these weather challenges there is a saying in Finland that has gone around for a long time: Being born in Finland is like winning the jackpot. Whoever started it, God knows but this kind of pride among the Finns is what ought to be understood where it comes from.

One critical measure of happiness is basically the feeling of being safe and secure. Security is an area where Finns as a people enjoy a lot of assurances. From the Geopolitical perspective, Finland and Sweden have steered clear of conflict by maintaining neutrality to either the western and eastern alliances of America and Russia respectively. Throughout the cold war, Finland and Sweden avoided alliances, which helped to keep them away from wars. Until Putin invaded Ukraine, the two countries had so far been lukewarm about joining military alliances such as NATO.

Internally, Finland enjoys very low crime levels, high standard of living, a superb education system and a universal health care system. Their school system is one of the fairest in Europe allowing people with money and those without money access the same quality education leading to more opportunities for young people. All these make people feel more content, happier and with a great sense of equality.

In a country where the rich are shy about showing off their wealth and the few poor people can access all the basics of life everyone finds themselves comfortable living with each other. It should also be noted that the Finnish culture is very warm and focuses on co-operation, rather than competition. These people feel secure and do not worry about the outside world in the same way as the people in many other nations. That gives them remarkable resilience to deal with life and not to let problems get them down. Just imagine a relatively safe country where children can walk home from school starting at the age of seven or eight years old. This alone fosters a healthy sense of independence.

The positivity in mindset of the people can also be traced from the beauty of their country. Finland is beautiful with masses of pristine forest and an abundance of crystal-clear lakes, and the wildlife they support. Being surrounded by nature that has clean air with low pollution levels and with so much to see and do outdoors makes people happy. Let’s also imagine an estimated two million saunas for a population of 5.4 million people. This means there is space for everyone and sweating it out is their national pastime activity. This relaxes muscles and mind hence creating happy people.

There is a way I keenly look at Uganda being the happiest in East Africa. As a country we are an outgoing population that takes serious national issues lightly and ready to crack a joke at anything bad or good. There is little surprise about that, especially when we remember that the majority of the population are youths. On average we are social people and we easily move on even after encountering very challenging situations. We are a hopeful people, always thinking that tomorrow might be better and always ready to act happy or rich even when we are not. Sometimes we accept our predicaments in peace and we also believe in that West African proverb that says: If you can’t avoid a rape, better lie down and enjoy it.

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