Dutch among the happiest people on earth

Cycling through the centre of Rotterdam.
People strolling across Rotterdam's Koopgoot
Guido Pijper

Our country is ranked fifth in the World Happiness Report 2023. In the newspaper AD, happiness researcher Ruut Veenhoven says we are so happy because we can make choices. "There is a sense of choice. You have to be able to choose to know who you are. That does require a certain upbringing. This is different in the southern part of Europe. There the emphasis is more on obeying than discovering what you want for yourself."

Finland happiest

For the sixth year in a row, Finland is the happiest country in the world. This is followed by Denmark, Iceland, Israel and then the Netherlands. This is largely due to the level of individualism in these countries. The 80-year-old Veenhoven has another remarkable reason why people are happy in these countries: the quality of civil servants.

"In a country where officials are well trained, not corrupt and there is little difference between rules and practice, people are happier. Because in such an environment you can make your own choices," says the researcher.

Geluksonderzoeker Ruud Veenhoven op de campus.

Grumbling also helps

It often seems that the news is dominated by misery. So how come the Dutch are generally so happy anyway? "That is precisely because of complaining. If there is a lot of grumbling, a lot also improves," Veenhoven says.

"In addition, many journalists see it as their calling to expose wrongs. This puts many issues on the political agenda. Another phenomenon: if people have the idea that it is all doom and gloom, they often think their own lives are not that bad. 'Then I must be happier than the average Dutchman', is the thought."

More information

Read the entire article in the newspaper AD.

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