Quality of life For Members

Why does Norway appear to be less happy than the other Nordics?

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Why does Norway appear to be less happy than the other Nordics?
Norway has been ranked as the least happy Nordic country for a number of years. Pictured is a person in Ålesund.Photo by Robert Noreiko on Unsplash

Every year Nordic countries top the table of the happiest places on Earth in the World Happiness Report. However, in recent years Norway has been ranked the least happy among the Nordics.


Norway has been ranked the 7th happiest country on the world, an honour that pretty much every country below it in the World Happiness Report would be happy to claim.

However, the country appears to be on a downward trajectory when it comes to happiness, despite the country priding itself on its welfare state, work-life balance, and overall quality of life.

The UN Sustainable Development Network has been publishing the World Happiness Report (WHR) every year since 2012.

Approximately 1,000 people from each country participate in the survey annually and are asked to evaluate various aspects of their quality of life.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Norway scored 7.302. Finland, the happiest country in the world for 2024, had a score of 7.741. Denmark (7.583), Iceland (7.525), and Sweden (7.344) were ranked the second, third and fourth happiest countries in the world.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) publishes annual reports on happiness in Norway which coincide with the release of the World Happiness Report.

The NIPH said in its report that the satisfaction with life and factors that affect the overall quality of life had slipped in Norway over the past five years.

The decline had been noted across a number of different demographics, according to the NIPH.


It pointed to factors such as tighter finances, increasing inequality, war and the aftermath of the pandemic.

The gap in quality of life was greatest between those with money worries and those with healthy finances.

The Norsk Monitor quality of life survey also pointed to some trends within in Norway. It said that a lower satisfaction in Norway may be related to a bleaker outlook for the future among young people.

This outlook was due to concerns over finances, working life and sustainability. This has occurred despite a relatively steady economy.

One reason for this could be most people getting used to improved living conditions, with their expectations rising in line with the improvements. Another factor could be social comparison, the growing inequality in Norway could cause those with less to want more.

And finally, the NIPH pointed to something called “diminishing marginal utility”. The example used is a fifth piece of cake being less satisfying than the first.

Happiness researcher at the NIPH, Ragnhild Bang Nes, said that two factors could explain why Finns were happier than Norwegians.


One factor would be Finland having lower levels of inequality than Norway, she told the science publication The other factor was lower expectations. 

However, there are factors to suggest that the other Nordics are not inherently happier than Norway.

The reason for this is the confidence in the happiness report numbers. The figures place a 95 percent confidence in Norway being between the 4th and 7th happiest countries in the world. This means that Norway’s happiness would be interchangeable or comparable with Sweden which also had a 95 percent confidence ranking of 4th to 7th.

Denmark and Iceland would also be interchangeable, but out of Norway’s reach, whereas the confidence range for Finland is just one.

Is there anything that can be done to make Norway a happier country?

Speaking to broadcaster TV 2 about the 2024 results, Bang Nes said that quality of life could be considered a political choice.

“We must work both politically and structurally with a good quality of life and make it possible for people to experience security,” she said.

Redistribution of wealth, access to work and education, and social inclusion where political aims which could boost happiness overall.

“One of the most important things for the quality of life in Norway is precisely this, having good relationships, and not experiencing discrimination,” the researcher said.


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