By Marnie Hunter | CNN
There is cause for optimism in the latest global happiness report.
First, benevolence is about 25% higher than before the pandemic.
“Benevolence toward others, especially helping strangers, which increased dramatically in 2021, remained high in 2022,” John Helliwell, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report, said in an interview with CNN.
And global happiness hasn’t taken a hit in the three years of the Covid-19 pandemic. Life assessments from 2020 to 2022 were “remarkably resilient,” the report says, with global averages essentially in line with the three years prior to the pandemic.
“Even during these difficult years, positive emotions are twice as prevalent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support are twice as strong as those of loneliness,” Helliwell said in a press release.
The report, which is a publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, is based on global survey data from people in more than 150 countries. Countries are ranked by happiness based on their average life evaluations over the previous three years, in this case 2020 to 2022.
The report, released Monday, identifies the happiest countries, those at the very bottom of the happiness scale and everything in between, plus the factors that lead to greater happiness. March 20 is the International Day of Happinessa day designated by the United Nations that will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2023.
Six-year winning streak for the world’s happiest nation
For the sixth year in a row, Finland is the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report ranking, based largely on life evaluations from the Gallup World Poll.
The Scandinavian country and its neighbors Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Norway all score very well on the measures the report uses to explain its findings: healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support, low corruption, community generosity where people care for each other and the freedom to make important life decisions.
But since we can’t all move to Finland, can other societies learn from these rankings?
“Right, are they doing things we wish we had seen before and we can start with? Or is it something unique about their climate and history that makes them different? And thankfully, at least from my perspective, the answer is the former,” said Helliwell, a professor emeritus at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia.
A holistic view of the well-being of all components of a society and its members makes for better life evaluations and happier countries.
“The goal of every institution should be to contribute as much as possible to the well-being of people,” says the report, which provides accountability for future generations and the preservation of basic human rights.
Israel climbs to number 4 this year from last year’s number 9. The Netherlands (No. 5), Switzerland (No. 8), Luxembourg (No. 9) and New Zealand (No. 10) round out the top 10.
Australia (No. 12), Canada (No. 13), Ireland (No. 14), the United States (No. 15), and the United Kingdom (No. 19) all made the top 20.
While the same countries often appear in the top 20 year after year, there is a newcomer this year: Lithuania.
The Baltic nation has risen steadily over the past six years from No. 52 in 2017 to No. 20 on the latest list. And the other Baltic countries, Estonia (No. 31) and Latvia (No. 41), are also climbing the ranks.
“It’s essentially the same story that’s playing out in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe,” Helliwell said.
Countries in those regions “probably normalized that transition after 1990 and (feel) more solid in their new identities” as the years go by, he said.
France dropped out of the top 20 to number 21 in this year’s report.
Nations scored lower for happiness
At the very bottom of the list is Afghanistan at number 137. Lebanon is one rank higher at number 136. The average life evaluations in these countries are more than five points lower (on a scale of 0 to 10) than in the 10 happiest countries.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine put both countries in the global spotlight when the 2022 report was released.
So where do these two nations stand according to the latest surveys?
Well-being in Ukraine has certainly taken a hit, but “despite the magnitude of suffering and damage in Ukraine, life assessments in September 2022 remained higher than in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation, now underpinned by a stronger sense of common purpose , benevolence , and confidence in Ukrainian leadership,” the report said.
Trust in their governments grew in both countries in 2022, the survey says, “but much more so in Ukraine than in Russia.” And Ukrainian support for leadership in Russia fell to zero.
In this year’s ranking, Russia is number 70 and Ukraine is number 92.
Look forward to something
The disruptions of the pandemic have prompted much reflection.
“People are rethinking their life goals,” Helliwell said. “They say, ‘I’m going back, but where am I going back? Where do I want to go back? How do I want to spend the rest of my life?’”
He hopes that this “movement to think more explicitly about values and other people” will influence not only factors such as the jobs or schools people choose, but also how they work in those environments.
“It’s not so much about the numbers or the salary, it’s about working with other people in a useful way. And of course that’s useful for the world, but the whole point of this happiness study is that it’s also good for the people who do it.
“In other words, you end up feeling better about yourself when you actually care for other people instead of number one.”
The world’s happiest countries for 2023
10. New Zealand
15. United States
18. Czech Republic
19. United Kingdom
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.