What makes people in northern countries happier?

A cliché about Norwegians says that they feel happiest when they have reached a remote hut with heavy luggage on cross-country skis without electricity or water. A simple recipe for happiness that seems to work. At least if you believe the "World Happiness Report". According to this, Norwegians are now the happiest people in the world.

The problem with happiness is that nobody really knows what it is. New studies are constantly being published that are supposed to explain where the happiest and most satisfied people now live. She found the US polling institute Gallup in Panama three years ago. Bhutan is also popular because, although it is poor, it is the only country in the world that does not measure its prosperity in terms of economic growth, but rather in terms of the well-being of its people. Other researchers consider material wealth to be decisive - the Swiss do accordingly well in many studies.

The "World Happiness Report", which has been compiled since 2012 by international experts from Columbia University in New York in collaboration with the United Nations, aims to include as many factors as possible. Among other things, it combines country data with surveys on the self-perception of residents. In doing so, he takes into account the gross domestic product per capita, average life expectancy, the perceived support from one's own social environment and trust in government and companies with regard to corruption. This year's report is based on data from 2014 to 2016.

Norway is at the top of the ranking for the first time. The Nordic countries Denmark, Iceland and - behind Switzerland in fifth place - Finland are among the top five. The result was close. For three years in a row, the Danes were considered the happiest people. "Hygge" - the Danish word for cosiness has already become famous as a special way of life.

The Germans are also more satisfied than ever

Germany stagnates in 16th place in the report - the German Institute for Economic Research has just found out that Germans are more satisfied than ever. And the happiness atlas, which Deutsche Post publishes every year, recently certified that Germans are as happy as they were last in 2001. Still, they cannot match the countries in the north.

For the "World Happiness Report" researchers examined a total of 155 countries. Accordingly, people feel least happy in the Central African Republic, Burundi and Tanzania. Most of the countries in the bottom 30 are in Africa. There are also countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ukraine and Yemen.

According to the New York experts, people's feelings of happiness mainly depend on factors such as care, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. The results of the study show that most Norwegians are not very worried. "We have a lot of resources and also a high income," says sociologist Anders Barstad from the Norwegian statistical office. "In Norway and the Nordic countries there is very little difference in income. We have little poverty and unemployment." Those who have work and a healthy family tend to perceive themselves as happy or at least see no reason not to be.

The well-developed welfare system ensures that Scandinavians have to worry less about their future, says Barstad. The inhabitants of the Nordic countries trust not only the authorities, the police and the judiciary more than people in other countries, but also one another. According to the report, more than 75 percent of Norwegians believe that most people can be trusted.

The long darkness in winter, on the other hand, hardly bothered the Norwegians. Few of his compatriots are depressed, according to Barstad. They hardly have any stress either. They tend to attribute gloom to their neighbors: "Many people in Norway think that we are happier than the Finns," says Barstadt. Cross-country skiing is also pretty good in Finland. In order to become the happiest country in the world, you will need a little more.