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Scientists have discovered why happiness is not the most important thing for residents of some countries.

Residents of Finland have been ranked first in the ranking of the happiest people in the world for the seventh year in a row. This is stated in the World Happiness Report 2024, published on March 20. Also in the top ten are Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Norway. But such ratings are not always true.

Moving away from economic factors as indicators of a country’s happiness can actually be beneficial. However, existing happiness ratings do not take into account the fact that this state is understood differently around the world.

Culture can influence how people in different countries respond to happiness surveys. Macropsychologist Kuba Krys from the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw speaks about this. Therefore, one should be careful not to make sweeping statements based on such country comparisons.

Moreover, the concept of happiness as it is currently defined and understood may be associated with prejudices common in Western societies.

Scientists have discovered why happiness is not the most important thing for residents of some countries.


The rankings in the Happiness Report are based on responses to a single question in the Gallup Worldwide Poll. People are asked to imagine a staircase with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst. Next comes the question itself: “Which rung of the ladder do you personally think you are currently on?”

For example, people in Afghanistan, on average, do not even reach the second step, while Finns most often choose the eighth step.

But Krys and other scientists question whether such estimates can be compared across countries. For example, when researchers asked 200 people in Tanzania, a low-ranking country, they found that most with limited formal education did not understand the question. In fact, people with a 7th grade education don’t even understand the idea of ​​ranking life experiences on a linear scale.

Moreover, personality and cultural psychologist Mohsen Joshanloo notes that many people, especially outside the West, fear that recognizing high levels of happiness can lead to something bad. His research shows that this fear can lower their scores on a survey.

The scientists also found that the ideal happiness score varied greatly across countries. In Germany and Iceland, approximately 85% said it was a 7 or higher out of 10; in Bhutan, Ghana, Nigeria, Japan and Pakistan, 70% of people chose a lower score.

Research shows that people in non-Western countries often place more emphasis on other aspects of a good life: harmony, spirituality or meaning. Sometimes scores in one category conflict with scores in another. For example, poor countries with low happiness scores often have high meaning in life scores. The opposite is true for richer countries.