The global feeling of happiness has remained remarkably constant despite several crises around the world. This is the conclusion reached by an independent group of experts in the new World Happiness Report, which was published on Monday to mark the United Nations' International Day of Happiness.
Finland remains the clear leader among the countries with the happiest population in the world for the sixth year in a row - despite the sharp deterioration in the security situation in Europe as a result of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and Finland's incomplete NATO accession.
Denmark, Iceland, Israel and the Netherlands follow at some distance behind the northernmost country in the EU, before co-NATO contenders Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg and New Zealand complete the top ten. In a year-on-year comparison, Israel jumped from ninth to fourth. This time Germany comes in 16th - two places worse than last year. Clearly the unhappiest of the 137 countries surveyed are Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Life ratings remarkably stable
The scientists involved, who publish the report based on surveys by the Gallup Institute, calculate the ranking based on data from the past three years. They identified six key factors in happiness: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity and the absence of corruption.
Despite multiple overlapping crises, life assessments in most of the world's populations have remained remarkably stable, the researchers wrote. In the years 2020 to 2022, which were strongly influenced by the corona pandemic, the global average values were just as high as in the three years before the pandemic. According to the report, people are generally happier in countries where happiness and well-being are distributed as evenly as possible among the population.
"Average happiness and our country ranking have remained remarkably stable over the three years of Covid-19," said researcher John Helliwell. Changes in the rankings represented continued, long-term trends, such as the improved rankings of the Baltic states of Lithuania (20th), Estonia (31st) and Latvia (41st). Even in these difficult years, positive emotions are twice as common as negative ones.
Ukrainian total decreases minimally
Ukraine (rank 92) and Russia (70th) are slightly higher in the new report than a year ago, even if the Ukrainian total - in contrast to Russia - has slightly decreased. "Despite the extent of the suffering and damage in Ukraine, life appraisals have remained higher in September 2022 than after the 2014 annexation," the researchers wrote, citing the year of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.
According to the findings of the experts, this is partly due to a much stronger sense of togetherness and trust in the leadership around President Volodymyr Zelenskyj. Trust in governments had grown in both countries in 2022, but much more so in Ukraine than in Russia. "The Russian invasion forged Ukraine into a nation," said one of the report's authors, Oxford professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve.