Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Markku Ojanen, is amazed by the happiness and positive attitude of the people of Vaasa. The people of Vaasa also surprised Ojanen a year ago when he analysed the results of the city’s first happiness survey. Back then, everyday life was overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. The second happiness survey conducted in December 2021 does not yet reveal the effects of the war started by Russia.
− Vaasa residents’ expectations for the future have remained positive despite the pandemic, which indicates adaptation. People’s positivity is a wonderful thing, says Ojanen after comparing the results.
At the moment, the thoughts of many have shifted from the pandemic to the war started by Russia and the situation of the Ukrainians. War can arouse fear, insecurity and anxiety, making it feel somehow wrong to enjoy life, express joy or feel happiness.
− We carefully considered whether now is the right time to publish the results of the Vaasa Happiness Survey. However, we hope that the positive results of this survey can create the confidence we need to be able to cope with these times together and support each other – by taking care of ourselves and those close to us and helping the Ukrainians the best way possible, says Mayor of Vaasa Tomas Häyry.
Happiness researcher Ojanen is a pillar of support and an expert in Vaasa’s promotion of the happiness of residents. The goal is enshrined in the city’s strategy.
Ojanen believes it is important to remember that hope and optimism are natural resources to help people cope through difficulties.
− They are the things that protect happiness. Therefore, feelings of happiness are nothing to be ashamed of, even when grief and suffering are around. Positivity makes people take care of themselves. Happiness and wellbeing can help others, he emphasises.
According to the happiness survey, the majority (77 percent) of Vaasa residents trust that the situation will return to normal after the pandemic. The number of negative experiences has slightly decreased. However, the expectation of long-term negative effects has increased.
− The belief in one’s own ability to influence happiness has weakened slightly, which is probably also the result of the pandemic, reckons Ojanen.
Stories and insights of happiness from residents
A total of 1,081 Vaasa residents responded to the online Vaasa Happiness Survey. In the previous year’s survey, there were 478 respondents.
− The sharp increase in the number of respondents means that our goal to have happy residents is clearly visible to our city residents. Last year, we wanted to bring out the stories and insights of happiness from residents, and thereby spread the happiness as widely as possible – also beyond Vaasa. We did this by looking for the happiest person in the world in the Vaasa region in a mini-documentary series. In addition, we naturally aim to increase the wellbeing and happiness of residents in all the city’s services, says Häyry.
The annual happiness survey not only identifies and measures the level of happiness experienced by the people of Vaasa but also the satisfaction of residents with the services provided by the city. In the survey, 67 percent estimate that the city is currently developing in a better direction.
− The City of Vaasa and several services have received better ratings than in the previous survey. In services, the trend is positive overall, especially in employment services, but of course there is still room for improvement, Ojanen explains.
The living environment is thought to play a major role in people’s happiness. Finland has topped the UN list as the happiest country in the world for four years in a row. The next World Happiness Report is expected to be released on 18 March.
− It will be interesting to see how Finland ranks this year and how the UN presents happiness. Whatever Finland’s ranking is, Vaasa’s work for the happiness of its residents will continue, reminds Häyry.
Happiness thieves undermine happiness
Happiness professor Markku Ojanen uses the term “happiness thieves” for things that weaken and complicate people’s happiness. The most burdensome factors are often related to things close to us.
− According to the Vaasa survey, the worst thieves of happiness in Vaasa are still illnesses and injuries, excessive sensitivity to people’s actions and speeches, heavy losses and pressure from the efficiency of modern culture, says Ojanen.
The most popular means of pursuing happiness remained the understanding of small and occasional moments of everyday joy. The people of Vaasa also consider that positive thinking is important.
Residents have shared their own ways of experiencing happiness in the survey. These have been compiled on the Vaasa website maailmanonnellisinkaupunki.fi.
Background and information about the study:
The survey was conducted as an online survey open to everyone from 1-17 December 2021 in Finnish, Swedish and English. 1,081 Vaasa residents of all age groups responded to the survey. The survey was conducted as an online survey, so it is not a random sample. However, a comparison with the key background variables describing urban dwellers (education, age and occupation) showed that the results are very representative of Vaasa residents.
In terms of age distribution, the distribution of respondents describes the age distribution of Vaasa residents quite well. Women, on the other hand, were overrepresented in the survey, which is normal in open-ended surveys. The subject of the survey could also be one that is of more interest to women.
The results of the survey were analysed by Professor Emeritus of Happiness, Markku Ojanen. The survey is repeated annually to monitor the development of residents’ happiness.