Amid other insights, the latest World Happiness Report reveals the most satisfied countries on Earth. How did yours rank?
And the happiest nation on Earth is… Finland. Again. For the sixth consecutive year the contented Scandinavian nation has topped the World Happiness Report, published this week.
It might sound a bit fluffy to some, but the annual study has become an important barometer for measuring global happiness. Conducting interviews with more than 100,000 people from 137 countries, the academics behind it use the results to persuade policymakers to put greater emphasis on happiness.
The latest edition of the report comes at the tail end of the pandemic. Despite the hardship brought on by Covid, not to mention overlapping crises such as the war in Ukraine and the climate emergency, data suggests that global happiness levels have remained resilient.
“Average happiness and our country rankings, for emotions as well as life evaluations, have been remarkably stable during the Covid years,” said the report’s editor, Prof John Helliwell, of the University of British Columbia, Canada.
What’s more, the study suggests that acts of human kindness have increased globally since the pandemic, which chimes with anecdotal evidence of communities coming together during lockdown, when neighbours shopped for each other and shared homemade bread over the garden fence.
“For a second year, we see that various forms of everyday kindness, such as helping a stranger, donating to charity, and volunteering are above pre-pandemic levels,” said Lara Aknin, director of the Happiness Lab at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. “Acts of kindness have been shown to both lead to and stem from greater happiness.”
The top tier of the happiness table is once again dominated by developed nations, particularly Scandinavian countries. Denmark and Iceland were ranked second and third respectively, behind Finland. The UK just about made the top 20, but slipped down the table for the fourth year running.
Measuring global happiness is a tricky business as people have different definitions of what makes them happy. However, researchers identified social support, healthy life expectancy, the economy, freedom to make life choices and freedom from corruption as the main drivers of happiness.
This would help explain why Afghanistan and Lebanon were ranked the two unhappiest countries. In fact, most of the bottom half of the table was comprised of lower income nations or conflict zones, further highlighting global inequality.
The 25 happiest nations
- New Zealand
- United States
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
- Costa Rica
The report also measures the ‘happiness gap’ within countries themselves. Afghanistan was found to have the smallest, owing to widespread unhappiness. Of the happiest nations, the Netherlands (ranked fifth) was found to have the smallest gap, making it the most satisfied country across the board.
This year’s report took a closer look at the available data from Ukraine. The authors found that while wellbeing has taken a hit since the war, the fall was more pronounced in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. The conflict, the report suggested, had brought Ukrainians together and fostered greater levels of altruism.
“The Russian invasion has forged Ukraine into a nation,” said Prof Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford, England.
The data from the latest report will now be used to persuade policymakers to give more weight to happiness, as Wales has attempted to do with its Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
“The ultimate goal of politics and ethics should be human wellbeing,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Development. “The happiness movement shows that wellbeing is not a ‘soft’ and ‘vague’ idea, but rather focuses on areas of life of critical importance: material conditions, mental and physical wealth, personal virtues, and good citizenship.”
He added: “We need to turn this wisdom into practical results to achieve more peace, prosperity, trust, civility – and yes, happiness – in our societies.”
Main image: Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Lindrik/iStock
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