The World Happiness Report 2023 has been released, once again showing that the Nordic countries are certainly doing something right when it comes to their populations’ well-being. That’s especially true for Finland, which secured the title of the world’s happiest country for the sixth time in a row.
It has been over 10 years since the first United Nations’ World Happiness Report was published, but this year's edition is particularly prominent as it’s the first to assess global happiness in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps surprisingly, the report concludes that the past three years of death and drudgery haven’t impacted the world’s happiness too much. Against all the odds, a number of happiness metrics have remained stable throughout COVID-19 – and some have even improved.
The report found that the globe saw a surge of benevolence in 2020 and especially in 2021. Even in 2022, the trend seems to have stuck and prosocial acts remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.
“Average happiness and our country rankings, for emotions as well as life evaluations, have been remarkably stable during the three COVID-19 years,” Professor John F. Helliwell, editor of the report from the University of British Columbia, said in a statement.
“Changes in rankings that have taken place have been continuations of longer-term trends, such as the increases seen in the rankings of the three Baltic countries. Even during these difficult years, positive emotions have remained twice as prevalent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support twice as strong as those of loneliness.”
The researchers rank countries across the world based on six complex factors: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption. They also track two measures of misery centered around the share of the population who have low life evaluations and low ratings of life.
“This year’s report features many interesting insights,” added Professor Lara B. Aknin, Director of the Helping and Happiness Lab of Simon Fraser University, “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. Acts of kindness have been shown to both lead to and stem from greater happiness.”
Based on these metrics, the top 20 countries were:
- New Zealand
- Czech Republic
On the other end of the spectrum, Afghanistan and Lebanon were ranked the least happy countries.
The report is also the first to evaluate the happiness of Ukraine since it was invaded by Russia in February 2022. As you’d no doubt expect, the war has had a significant impact on the country – but not necessarily all terrible.
“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 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, and this is thanks in part to the extraordinary rise in fellow feeling across Ukraine as picked up in data on helping strangers and donations – the Russian invasion has forged Ukraine into a nation.”