For the fifth year in a row, Finland is the world’s happiest country, according to World Happiness Report rankings based largely on life evaluations from the Gallup World Poll.
According to CNN, the Nordic country and its neighbors Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland all score very well on the measures the report uses to explain its findings: healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support in times of trouble, low corruption and high social trust, generosity in a community where people look after each other and freedom to make key life decisions.
Denmark comes in at No. 2 in this year’s rankings, followed by Iceland at No. 3. Sweden and Norway are seventh and eighth, respectively.
Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg take places 4 through 6, with Israel coming in at No. 9 and New Zealand rounding out the top 10.
Canada (No. 15), the United States (No. 16) and the United Kingdom (No. 17) all made it into the top 20.
Another bright spot in this year’s report: Worry and stress dipped in the pandemic’s second year. While they were still up 4% in 2021 versus pre-pandemic, worry and stress in 2020 were up by 8%.
“I think part of that is people knew a little more what they were dealing with in the second year, even if there were new surprises,” Helliwell said.
Average life evaluations “have remained remarkably resilient” during the pandemic, with negative and positive influences offsetting each other, the report says.
“For the young, life satisfaction has fallen, while for those over 60, it has risen — with little overall change,” according to the report.
Helliwell acknowledges that there’s a sense that crises bring out either the best or the worst in societies.
“But in general, people are too pessimistic about the goodwill in the societies they live in, so then when the actual disaster happens and they see other people responding positively to help others, it raises their opinion both of themselves and of their fellow citizens,” Helliwell said.
“And so you find both trust in others and general life evaluations often rise in times when you think ‘these are bad times,’ but what’s happening is people are working together to deal with them.”
This interplay of negative and positive very much applies to the situation in Ukraine, although how the scales will ultimately tip remains to be seen. Working together will certainly offset, to some degree, the tragedies affecting Ukrainians, Helliwell said.
“Their heartland is being attacked, so they’ll be getting some coming-together effect, but of course the actual damage is terrible.”
The effects the war will have on overall happiness in Russia are especially murky because government censorship distorts information that could inform life evaluations.
The surveys this year’s happiness rankings were based on were conducted well before the invasion. Ukraine and Russia both fall into the bottom half of world rankings for happiness in the 2022 report, with Ukraine at No. 98 and Russia at No. 80.
The world’s happiest countries, 2022 edition
10. New Zealand
16. United States
17. United Kingdom
18. Czechia (Czech Republic)