What We Can Learn From the World's Happiest Country

Danny Dorling, Annika Koljonen

£18.99  |  $25.00
ISBN 9781788212175
£12.99  |  $19.99
ISBN 9781788212168
£12.99  |  $19.99
ISBN 9781788212151
0 pages   |     |  24 September 2020


"Among the world’s countries, Finland ranks at or near the top in air quality, education, equality, happiness, honest government, milk consumption, opportunities for children, preparedness, safety, trust in its police, and many other things. Eighty years ago, most of those things were not true. How did Finland become so successful, so quickly, across such a broad spectrum? How can other countries achieve Finland’s happiness? Read this wonderful book, and learn the answers!"  – Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography, UCLA, and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel

"As inequality reaches eye-watering levels around the world, this book contains some fascinating and important lessons on how policies like progressive taxation and investing in public services can lead to more equal – and happier - societies."  – Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive, Oxfam GB

"Finland is one of the fairest, most inclusive and dynamic countries to live in. This is not because it is small or culturally homogeneous, or enjoys a great deal of oil wealth. As Danny Dorling and Annika Koljonen show us in this marvellous book, it is because of what Finns have learned about ‘caring for each other more and more cleverly’ over recent decades. We would do well to follow their example."  – Simon Reid-Henry, Reader in Geography, Queen Mary University of London, and Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo

“An absorbing, insightful and scholarly book, grounded in emancipatory hope and humility, that captures the very essence of why Finland has become one of the most equitable countries in a highly unequal world.”  – Paul Stepney, Adjunct Professor of Social Work, Tampere University, Finland

"Finntopia is the remarkable story of a country on Europe’s perceived fringes that should instead be in the centre of our view for creating a better society. Dorling and Koljonen provide a compelling picture of why Finland may not be the Utopia that it sometimes is portrayed as, but can still teach us many lessons about a different kind of politics, one that has the interest of people at its heart."  – Benjamin Hennig, Professor of Geography, University of Iceland

"Good enough to be true – just like the story of Finland." – Anna Sievala, journalist, Joensuu

"... in simple terms, the image of Finland I see in your book is precisely how I see things." – Markku Loytonen, Professor of Geography, University of Helsinki

"A fascinating book which reads like a detective story. It makes one wonder if the secret behind the happiness of Finns is their ignorance of their own happiness. There is much to learn from Finntopia, even for a native Finn." – Juha Kaakinen, chief executive of the Y-Foundation (that has built 6,500 homes for the homeless in Finland)

"Danny Dorling and Annika Koljonen's portrait of Finland's socio-political system and history is a thought-provoking read. They convincingly demonstrate that the most profitable investment any institution or country can make is to invest in the well-being, education, and capabilities of its people." – Mikko Weckroth, postdoctoral researcher, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science


The 2020 World Happiness Report ranked Finland, for the third year running, as the world’s happiest country.

The "Nordic Model" has long been touted as the aspiration for social and public policy in Europe and North America, but what is it about Finland that makes the country so successful and seemingly such a great place to live?

Is it simply the level of government spending on health, education and welfare? Is it that Finland has one of the lowest rates of social inequality and childhood poverty, and highest levels of literacy and education?

Finland clearly has problems of its own – for example, a high level of gun ownership and high rates of suicide – which can make Finns sceptical of their ranking, but its consistently high performance across a range of well-being indicators does raise fascinating questions.

In the quest for the best of all possible societies, Danny Dorling and Annika Koljonen explore what we might learn from Finnish success.


Part 1 Context
1. The geography, geology, climate and weather
2. History and politics
3. The economy since 1945

Part 2 Social Policy
4. Childhood
5. Adulthood
6. Old age and health

Part 3 The Future
7. Austerity, populism, Europe and the immediate future
8. Demography and environmental challenges
9. Attempts to overcome success fatigue

Author Information

Danny Dorling is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of St Peter's College, Oxford, an Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies in the Social Sciences and a former Honorary President of the Society of Cartographers. His books include, most recently, Do We Need Economic Inequality? (2018) and Slowdown (2020).

Annika Koljonen graduated in Politics and International Relations from the University of Cambridge in 2019 and was an intern at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that year. She currently lives in Helsinki.

Purchase Options