Despite causing millions of deaths, economic downfall, and worldwide disruption these past few years, the 10th annual World Happiness Report reveals that the covid pandemic hasn’t impacted our overall happiness. The 2023 report published today reveals that happiness levels from self-reported “life evaluations” have been “remarkably resilient” — with global averages between 2020 and 2022 just as high as those reported pre-pandemic.
The annual World Happiness Report uses data from studies like the Gallup World Poll, which collects around 1,000 self-assessed life evaluations from each of the 137 participating countries to determine its overall rankings. The self-reported evaluations are then broken down into six key factors — social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption — to help determine how and why the results vary across each country. The final happiness rankings are based on a three-year average of these life evaluations.
“Nordic countries merit special attention in light of their generally high levels of both personal and institutional trust”
If you’re already familiar with this annual report, then this year’s results won’t come as a surprise: Finland ranked as the happiest country in the world for the sixth year running, and many of the top spots are still occupied by countries in Northern Europe like Denmark (second place), Iceland (third place), and the Netherlands (fifth place). The study notes that Nordic countries especially “merit special attention in light of their generally high levels of both personal and institutional trust” and highlights that covid-related deaths were around one-third lower in these regions compared to Western Europe between 2020 and 2021.
The US climbed from 16th to 15th position compared to last year’s report, and Canada jumped by two points to the 13th spot. Israel increased its position by five points, dethroning Switzerland as the fourth happiest country in the world. Up 30 places since 2017, Lithuania has now made its way into 20th place, replacing France, which dropped down a spot. Meanwhile, the UK has slipped by two positions down to 19th place, clinging onto the top 20 despite a tumultuous few years following Brexit, covid lockdowns, and various government crises.
Ukraine has slipped down to the 92nd happiest country (based on that three-year average) from 69th place in 2021 following the Russian invasion last year, though the study notes that benevolence rose to record levels — increasing by over 70 percent for both donations and aiding strangers. Benevolent acts fell significantly in Russia by contrast, and the country has fallen from 60th to 70th position between 2021 and 2023.
“The devastating impact of the war is evident to all, and so we also find that well-being in Ukraine has taken a real hit,” noted report co-author Jan-Emmanuel De Neve. “But what is surprising, however, is that well-being in Ukraine fell by less than it did in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea,” De Neve adds, alluding that morale has remained high as a result of increased reports of fellowship and charity in defiance of the ongoing war. “Russian invasion has forged Ukraine into a nation,” said De Neve.
Global benevolence is reportedly one-quarter higher than prior to the covid pandemic
Ukraine isn’t the only nation experiencing higher than average levels of charity and kinship. The study also reveals that wider global benevolence remains high following a surge in 2020, with prosocial acts having remained one-quarter higher in 2022 than prior to the pandemic. “This year’s report features many interesting insights,” said Lara Aknin, one of the co-authors of the report. “But one that I find particularly interesting and heartening has to do with pro-sociality. 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.”
Meanwhile, war-torn Afghanistan (137th place) and Lebanon (136th place) remain the two unhappiest countries in the rankings, with African countries such as Zimbabwe (134th place), Botswana (132nd place), and Sierra Leone (135th place) occupying most of the bottom of the table.