Despite cold, dark, Finland tops 2018 global happiness index

This image grab from the World Happiness Report 2018 shows the top 20 countries in the happiness ranking.
Updated 14 March 2018
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Despite cold, dark, Finland tops 2018 global happiness index

HELSINKI: If cold weather and a lack of sunlight in winter are enough to get you down, chances are you’re not Finnish.
The World Happiness Report published Wednesday put Finland at the top among 156 countries ranked by happiness levels, based on factors such as life expectancy, social support and corruption.
Finland has emerged as the happiest place to live even though little sun and low temperatures are often blamed for high rates of depression.
“Well, our politics and our economics. I think the basics are quite good in Finland,” said Sofia Holm, 24-year-old resident of Helsinki, the Nordic country’s capital. “So, yes, we have the perfect circumstances to have a happy life here in Finland.”
And that’s not forgetting other plentiful attractions like skiing and saunas and, for children of all ages, Santa Claus.
“It’s a great thing to live in the happiest country although it’s snowing and we are walking in this wet snow,” said Helsinki resident Inari Lepisto, 28. “Yes, we have many things that make me happy.”
This year, the annual report published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network also evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants.
In 2015, more than a million migrants entered Europe, and a few thousand made it to Finland, a relatively homogenous country with about 300,000 foreigners and residents with foreign roots, out of its 5.5 million people.
Finland’s largest immigrant groups come from other European nations, but there also are communities from Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Somalia.
John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, noted that all the countries in the Top 10 scored highest both in overall happiness and regarding the happiness of immigrants. He said a society’s happiness seems contagious.
“The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born,” Helliwell said. “Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose.”
Europe’s Nordic nations, none particularly diverse, have dominated the index since it first was produced in 2012. In reaching No. 1, Finland nudged neighboring Norway into second place.
Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year.
Meik Wiking, CEO of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute, said the five Nordic countries that reliably rank high in the index “are doing something right in terms of creating good conditions for good lives,” something newcomers have noticed.
He said the happiness revealed in the survey derives from healthy amounts of both personal freedoms and social security that outweigh residents having to pay “some of the highest taxes in the world.”
“Briefly put, (Nordic countries) are good at converting wealth into well-being,” Wiking said. The finding on the happiness of immigrants “shows the conditions that we live under matter greatly to our quality of life, that happiness is not only a matter of choice.”
The United States was 11th in the first index and has never been in the Top 10. The report cited several factors to explain its falling ranking.
“The US is in the midst of a complex and worsening public health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards,” the report said.
It added that the “sociopolitical system” in the United States produces more income inequality — a major contributing factor to unhappiness — than other countries with comparatively high incomes.
The US also has seen declining “trust, generosity and social support, and those are some of the factors that explain why some countries are happier than others,” Wiking said.
One of the world’s northernmost countries stretching some 1,160 kilometers (720 miles) from north to south, the sun does not set for 73 consecutive days during summer at Finland’s northernmost point. During the winter months, the sun doesn’t rise at all for 51 days in Lapland, northern Finland.
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Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.


400-year-old shipwreck ‘discovery of decade’ for Portugal

Updated 48 min 19 sec ago
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400-year-old shipwreck ‘discovery of decade’ for Portugal

  • Freire and his team believe the ship was wrecked between 1575 and 1625, when Portugal’s spice trade with India was at its peak

CASCAIS, Portugal: Archaeologists searching Portugal’s coast have found a 400-year-old shipwreck believed to have sunk near Lisbon after returning from India laden with spices, specialists said on Monday.
“From a heritage perspective, this is the discovery of the decade,” project director Jorge Freire said. “In Portugal, this is the most important find of all time.”
In and around the shipwreck, 40 feet (12 meters) below the surface, divers found spices, nine bronze cannons engraved with the Portuguese coat of arms, Chinese ceramics and cowry shells, a type of currency used to trade slaves during the colonial era.
Found on Sept. 3 off the coast of Cascais, a resort town on the outskirts of Lisbon, the shipwreck and its objects were “very well-preserved,” said Freire.
Freire and his team believe the ship was wrecked between 1575 and 1625, when Portugal’s spice trade with India was at its peak.
In 1994, Portuguese ship Our Lady of the Martyrs was discovered near Fort of Sao Juliao da Barra, a military defense complex near Cascais.
“For a long time, specialists have considered the mouth of the Tagus river a hotspot for shipwrecks,” said Minister of Culture Luis Mendes. “This discovery came to prove it.”
The wreck was found as part of a 10-year-old archaeological project backed by the municipal council of Cascais, the navy, the Portuguese government and Nova University of Lisbon.