Finland has retained its title as the happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row, with Australia just missing out on the top 10.
The World Happiness Report observes data on six variables and ranks countries based on their happiness over the span of three years.
For the sixth year in a row, Finland has taken out the top spot, with an average life evaluation score of 7.804.
Finland is followed by Denmark and Iceland in the second and third spot, respectively.
Australia missed out on the top 10, and is ranked at No.12 on the 2023 list. There was no change from 2022, and only one spot advanced from 13th a decade earlier in 2012.
At the very bottom of the list is Afghanistan, with Lebanon sitting in second last.
Top 10 happiest countries for 2023
- New Zealand.
The 2023 rankings are based on a three-year average from 2020 to 2022.
The research for The World Happiness Report leverages six key factors to “explain variation in self-reported levels of happiness” throughout the world.
Those six factors are: Social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.
The same countries made the top 10 in 2022’s report, with the order changing slightly.
Israel climbed from No.9 on 2022’s list up to No.4 in 2023.
Switzerland was fourth last year and dropped down to ninth this year.
Canada came in at No.13, followed by Ireland, the United States, Germany, Belgium, Czechia, the United Kingdom and in 20th place, Lithuania.
The World Happiness Report noted Lithuania is the only new country in the top 20 and it has moved up 30 places since 2017.
A year of ‘crises’
The report also acknowledged that 2022 was “a year of crises”.
Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to a brutal war, inflation impacted the world, there were local climate emergencies and the COVID-19 pandemic continued.
Ukraine was ranked 92nd on the list, while Russia is ahead in the rankings sitting at No.70.
China endured intense lockdowns while most of the world started returning to normal. It is 64th on the list.
Did COVID make the world kinder?
John Helliwell, one of the report authors, said average happiness, emotions and life evaluations were “remarkably stable” during the pandemic.
The global averages in the COVID-19 years from 2020 to 2022 were just as high as those in the years leading up to the pandemic, the report notes.
The report claims positive emotions were more than twice as frequent as negative emotions during the pandemic.
Benevolent acts were higher in 2022 than before COVID spread throughout the world and killed at least 6.8 million people.
After the biggest health crisis the world has seen in a century, the report notes the importance of benevolence and trust that can be assessed.
“The pandemic has been seen by many as creating social and political divisions above and beyond those created by the need to maintain physical distance from loved ones for many months,” the report says.
“But some of the evidence noted above shows that large crises can lead to improvements in trust, benevolence and wellbeing if they induce people to reach out to help others.”
The World Happiness Report also noted that studies of the effects of COVID-19 have highlighted the importance of public trust to aid a successful pandemic response.
Back in 2020, The World Happiness Report found people with higher levels of social and institutional trust were happier than those who were living in less trusting and trustworthy environments.
Even in crises beyond COVID, the report found pro-social actions were more prevalent in Ukraine.
“During 2022, benevolence grew sharply in Ukraine but fell in Russia,” the report said.
“Despite the magnitude of suffering and damage in Ukraine, life evaluations in September 2022 remained higher than in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation, supported now by a stronger sense of common purpose, benevolence, and trust in Ukrainian leadership.”
The keys to happiness
There are a few takeaways from the report which can help make populations happier.
For a population to have high levels of overall life satisfaction, people need to be pro-social, healthy and prosperous.
“In other words, its people must have high levels of what Aristotle called ‘eudaimonia’. So at the level of society, life satisfaction and eudaimonia go hand in hand,” the report says.
The World Happiness Report also says when a society, a situation or a policy is being assessed, the average it brings should be looked at, as should the scale of misery.
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