For all the discontent, it sometimes seems as if it’s just doom and gloom, but the Dutch are still among the happiest people in the world. The country ranked fifth in the World Happiness Report 2023. Finland is the country that tops the list for the sixth year in a row.
The fact that the Netherlands ranks alongside countries like Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Israel has a lot to do with the level of individualism in those countries. People are simply happier in a modern, individualistic society, says sociologist Ruut Veenhoven. He may be 80 years old, but the researcher is still active in his field. He is a world celebrity in the field of happiness.
“In Scandinavia and the Netherlands, there is a feeling that there is a choice. You have to be able to choose to know who you are. That takes a certain education. It’s different in the southern part of Europe. There is more emphasis on obedience than figuring out what you want.”
Civil servants determine happiness
In Scandinavia and the Netherlands, there is a sense of choice
According to Venhoven, this makes a difference in the ranking of the World Happiness Report, which is compiled annually by scientists from the United States. Over a period of three years, it looks at how citizens feel, the social support they receive for one another, the corruption within their government, their physical and mental health and GDP per capita.
Do not think so, but the happiness of the average citizen depends largely on the quality of civil servants. “In a country where civil servants are well trained, not corrupt, and there is not much difference between rules and practices, people are much happier. Because you can make your own decisions in such an environment.”
But sometimes it seems as if the news is dominated by gloom, and that we only hear minor things around us. How can the Dutch be so happy after all? It’s precisely because of grumbling, Veenhoven says. When there is a lot to complain about, a lot gets better. “Many journalists see this as their demand to highlight abuses. As a result, many issues have been put on the political agenda. Another phenomenon: when people have an idea that it is all bleak, they often think that their private life is not so bad.” “Then I must be happier than the average Dutch person,” is the idea.
We can still score points on the quality of government, says Professor Happiness. According to him, this is the best predictor of a better score. Dissatisfaction with issues such as the cost-plus issue and gas extraction in Groningen is problematic to feel good. “Improvement is needed, but everyone agrees on that.”
Why Israel ranks fourth is a mystery to Venhoven. The “largest protests in the country’s history” erupted ten weeks ago. However, the average citizen gives his life a 7.4, reads the US report. As far as the average Dutch person. It is a rather individual country, but this is also a surprise to me. Just like the South American countries that get fairly high scores. They are not very rich. The government is not as bad as in African countries, but it also has its limitations. In short, fortunately, there are still things to investigate. Otherwise, I might as well go home.”
Top 10 countries with the least happy population
6- Burkina Faso
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