Every year for the past decade, the World Happiness Report ranks how people in more than 150 countries evaluate the quality of their lives to find the world’s happiest countries. And for the past four years, the top spot has been claimed by Finland. Today, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which publishes the report together with Gallup World Poll, announced that the Nordic country is yet again leading the list.
Generosity, perception of compassion, freedom to make life choices, social support, and life expectancy are some of the factors evaluated when determining the rankings, with each country scoring on a 10-point scale.
Finland was named the happiest country in the world with a score of 7.821 out of 10 ahead of Denmark (7.636) and Iceland (7.557), which came in second and third, respectively. The United States came in 16th place, up three spots from last year.
This year, the most significant gains were by three Eastern European countries — Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia — while the biggest losses were by Lebanon, Venezuela, and Afghanistan.
While 2021 was again marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended people’s lives globally, including in Finland (the country faced an economic slump like many nations around the world), there is a silver lining.
“We found during 2021 remarkable worldwide growth in all three acts of kindness monitored in the Gallup World Poll,” John Helliwell, professor at the University of British Columbia and editor of the report, said in a statement released to Travel + Leisure. “Helping strangers, volunteering, and donations in 2021 were strongly up in every part of the world, reaching levels almost 25 percent above their pre-pandemic prevalence. 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.”
Key findings in this year’s report include that “positive emotions are more than twice as frequent as negative emotions” and that despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, self-perceived individual wellbeing continues to be resilient with no significant changes compared to pre-pandemic levels. Unfortunately, about 3 percent more of the global population experienced worry and sadness compared to data collected from 2017-2020.
“At the very bottom of the ranking, we find societies that suffer from conflict and extreme poverty,” Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford, said. “This presents a stark reminder of the material and immaterial damage that war does to its many victims and the fundamental importance of peace and stability for human wellbeing.”