After over a year of lockdown restrictions and reports of worsening mental health, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network published its annual World Happiness Report in March, analyzing how COVID-19 has affected people around the world and ranking countries by how happy their residents are, according to the New York Times.
Launched in 2012, the World Happiness Report is an annual survey of more than 350,000 people in 95 countries asking them to rate their happiness on a 10-point scale. Authors of the report rely on data from the Gallup World Poll to conduct its analysis.
Some questions included in the survey are, “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?” and “Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?”
This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in widespread anxiety, not simply about public health but also having to do with the global economic recovery. Millions of people have suffered or died from the coronavirus, while others lost their jobs or spent the year isolated from their family and friends due to social distancing regulations.
But the report also found that there has been surprising resilience in how people rate their lives. While there was a roughly 10% increase in the number of people who said they felt worried or sad the previous day, the authors of the World Happiness Report concluded that having trust in others contributed more to life satisfaction.
As countries work to roll out COVID-19 vaccines to their populations and end the pandemic that has killed over 3 million people worldwide, the World Happiness Report 2021 offers insight into how residents of these 10 countries have achieved such high levels of happiness.
Finland ranked number one on the list for the fourth year in a row, possibly due to the success of the country’s social programs, featuring a thriving public school system and universal health care. The same can be said of residents of Iceland and Denmark, which rank third and fourth on the list, respectively.
The governments of these three countries also implemented strict regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in relatively fewer cases and deaths. The level of trust in government experienced in Finland, Iceland, and Denmark correlates to residents’ happiness.
Top 10 Countries
9. New Zealand
The report also highlighted the bottom 10 countries in its rankings, many of which have experienced greater economic instability. According to the report, workers who experience hardships associated with COVID-19 are more likely to become unhappy.
Additionally, lower-income countries that are financially incapable of providing workers with sufficient economic relief correlate with lower levels of happiness.
Bottom 10 Countries
Though the authors of the World Happiness report stress the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental health, thus influencing levels of life satisfaction, they also acknowledge the positive side.
Namely, the pandemic has “shone a light on mental health as never before.” The increased focus on mental health issues should encourage further research and the implementation of necessary social services.