Devastating loss of life and growing uncertainty have the world very much on edge, but there is a bit of good news for humanity: Benevolence is surging globally.
That’s one of the key findings of the World Happiness Report, a publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network that draws on global survey data from people in about 150 countries.
Marking its 10th anniversary, the report looks at happiness around the world — the happiest nations, those at the very bottom of the happiness scale and everything in between, plus the factors that tend to lead to greater happiness.
And with two years of Covid-19 pandemic data on the books, the report has uncovered something unexpected.
“The big surprise was that globally, in an uncoordinated way, there have been very large increases in all the three forms of benevolence that are asked about in the Gallup World Poll,” John Helliwell, one of the report’s three founding editors, told CNN Travel.
Donating to charity, helping a stranger and volunteering are all up, “especially the help to strangers in 2021, relative to either before the pandemic or 2020, by a very large amount in all regions of the world,” said Helliwell, who is a professor emeritus at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia.
The global average of the three measures jumped by about 25% in 2021 compared with pre-pandemic levels, the report says.
And benevolence is certainly top of mind as the world responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But before getting into how that increasingly global conflict may impact happiness, let’s look at countries where the feeling was abundant in 2021.
The happiest people in the world are Nordic
For the fifth year in a row, Finland is the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report, which is based on life assessments by the Gallup World Poll.
The northern country and its neighbors Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland have very good results in the measures they use to explain the report’s results: healthy life expectancy, per capita GDP, social support in times of difficulty, low levels of corruption and high social confidence. , generosity in a society where people care for each other, and the freedom to make basic decisions in life.
In this year’s ranking, Denmark is in second place, Iceland in third place, and Sweden and Norway in seventh and eighth place, respectively.
Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are in 4th-6th place, Israel is in 9th place and New Zealand is in top 10.
Canada (No. 15), the United States (No. 16) and the United Kingdom (No. 17) are in the top 20.
Happiness in difficult times
Another highlight of this year’s report is the reduction of anxiety and stress in the second year of the pandemic. Although it will continue to increase by 4% in 2021 compared to the previous pandemic, in 2020 anxiety and stress will increase by 8%.
“I think part of that is new surprises, but it’s a little bit more about what people are doing in their second year,” Helliwell said.
Expected life expectancy remained “unusually stable” during the pandemic, the report said, replacing the negative and positive effects.
According to the report, “Satisfaction with life has decreased for young people and increased for those over 60 – the overall change is small.”
Helliwell admits that crises are either the best or the worst in society.
“But in general, people are extremely pessimistic about the goodwill of the communities in which they live, so when it strikes a real disaster and sees other people responding positively to help others, it increases their perception of themselves and their fellow citizens ”. “Helliwell said.
“And so you gain the trust of others, and the general values of life often increase when you think, ‘These are bad times,’ but what happens is that people work together to fight them.”
The Happiest Countries in the World, 2022 Edition
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
- Czech Republic (Czech Republic)