Out of more than 150 countries, one has been named the happiest country in the world — for the fifth year in a row. Using data from global surveys on happiness and other measures of well-being, The annual World Happiness Report ranked Finland as number one.
The report, published every year by the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, analyzed data from 156 countries including self-reported levels of generosity, freedom to make life choices, perceptions of corruption in government and business as well as measures of positive and negative emotions. The report also took data on life expectancy and GDP into account.
And, once again, Finland took the top spot, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. From there, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Israel and New Zealand round out the top 10. The United States came in at number 16 this year, which is up from 19th place last year. Canada came in just above the U.S. (at number 15) and the United Kingdom right below the U.S. (at number 17).
These numbers are based on a three-year average of data taken between 2019 and 2021, so the rankings do take the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic into account. The report shows that, while negative emotions (sadness, worry, stress) initially increased during the pandemic, so did acts of kindness.
“COVID-19 is the biggest health crisis we’ve seen in more than a century,” John Helliwell, professor at the University of British Columbia and a co-editor on the report, said in a press release. “Now that we have two years of evidence, we are able to assess not just the importance of benevolence and trust, but to see how they have contributed to well-being during the pandemic.”
As Helliwell noted, the poll is able to measure three major acts of kindness: helping strangers, donations and volunteering. In 2020, helping strangers increased, and in 2021, all three acts of kindness continued to increase above their pre-COVID levels.
"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," Helliwell said.
Along with benevolence, the report highlights the importance of trust in other people as well as public institutions as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report found that countries with higher levels of institutional trust, as well as concrete goals to contain the virus and the implementation of appropriate public health tools, have also had lower rates of death during the pandemic.