While Nordic countries lead the ranking of the happy countries, nations struggling to deal with conflicts and economic turmoil occupy the last places on the list. At the same time, however, the World Happiness Report reveals that benevolence grew in all its dimensions amid the pandemic.
For five years in a row, Finland has been selected as the happiest country in the world according to the World Happiness Report. This year, the annual report published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network marks its 10th anniversary. The report is based on survey data from over 150 countries, assessing individuals’ evaluation of their personal level of happiness. In 2021, the remarkable publication once again turned people’s attention to Nordic nations as the list of the happiest countries is led by Finland, Denmark, and Iceland while Sweden and Norway occupy 6th and 8th places on the list, respectively.
Switzerland and the Netherlands complete the ranking of the top 5 happiest nations while countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom occupy only 16th and 17th places.
Fig.1. Ranking of Happiness based on 3-year-average (2019 – 2021)
Not surprisingly, the countries at the bottom of the ranking suffer due to poor economies and poverty. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, one of the editors of the report, commenting on the country at the very bottom of the ranking, noted:
“At the very bottom of the ranking we find societies that suffer from conflict and extreme poverty, notably we find that people in Afghanistan evaluate the quality of their own lives as merely 2.4 out of 10. This presents a stark reminder of the material and immaterial damage that war does to its many victims and the fundamental importance of peace and stability for human well-being.”
Afghanistan, suffering a humanitarian crisis after the return of the Taliban, occupies the last place in the ranking. Lebanon, currently enduring economic turmoil, is the second unhappiest country after Afghanistan with Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Botswana concluding the top five least happy countries.
Although currently, Russia and Ukraine are placed somewhere at the middle of the ranking – 80th and 98th positions respectively, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is expected to dramatically impact upon the level of happiness in both countries.
Fig.2. Ranking of Happiness based on 3-year-average (2019 – 2021)
This year the publication also reveals interesting findings amid the pandemic. The report shows that benevolence grew in all its three dimensions worldwide. John Helliwell, one of the editors of the report, noted:
“Helping strangers, volunteering, and donations in 2021 were strongly up in every part of the world, reaching levels almost 25% above their pre-pandemic prevalence. This surge of benevolence, which was especially great for the helping of strangers, provides powerful evidence that people respond to help others in need, creating in the process more happiness for the beneficiaries, good examples for others to follow, and better lives for themselves.”
Nevertheless, according to the report, stress and worry among people did escalate during the pandemic. In 2020, the level of worry and stress was 8% above the pre-pandemic level while in 2021 it was only 4% above. The report also stresses that overall life satisfaction for young individuals has dropped while for older people it has increased.