Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 125

Trust in the World’s Happiest Country

Trust but verify.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

“Trust but verify.”

President Ronald Reagan

The origin of the phrase “trust but verify” is actually the translation of an old Russian proverb, “doveryai no proveryai.” In a boomerang communication, President Reagan used it in 1987 after the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union.

Now, we see Russia invade its neighbor Ukraine, and Finland hedge its trust of Russia by declaring that it wants to join NATO. Russia is responding with reducing the electricity it supplies to Finland.

What will this decision do to Finland’s happiness? According to the annual United Nations World Happiness Report, released last month, Finland won for the 5th year in a row with its highest margin yet.1 The key factor? Perhaps that Finland also has among the world’s highest levels of trust among people.

The United States this year ranks 16th. I suppose that with our increasingly intense divisiveness and mass shootings, trust in the United States is decreasing, at least outside of one’s “tribe.”

Trust also has practical health implications. Australia, most similar to the United States in terms of cultures and government, has a reputed much higher level of trust in each other and their government than we do, which is sometimes used as an explanation as to why Australian has the population equivalent of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths compared to our 1 million.

Various factors may be responsible for the connection of trust and happiness. You assume the goodwill of others in day-to-day life, instead of being suspicious. Crime is less of a concern. The government is viewed as benevolent and provider of valuable services. Trust is also associated with less inequity.

Perhaps even the extensive Finland use of the sauna helps, too. Finland has about 1 sauna for every 2 people and a third of all the saunas in the world. The sauna aids relaxation and provides healing. Even the Finnish parliament has its own sauna where it holds informal meetings, with the rationale being that when business suits are traded for swimsuits, hierarchies melt away.

Although large tech companies in the United States provide many amenities for workers, I have not heard if saunas are one of them. It seems that burning up in a workplace sauna for 10 to 20 minutes may help to reduce burning out at work.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

Reference

1. Helliwell JF, Layard R, Sachs JD, et al, eds. World Happiness Report 2022. Sustainable Development Solutions Network; 2022.