(CNN) — There is cause for optimism in the latest report on world happiness.
For one thing, benevolence is about 25% higher than it was before the pandemic.
“Benevolence toward others, especially helping strangers, which increased dramatically in 2021, has remained high in 2022,” John Helliwell, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report, said in an interview with CNN.
And global happiness has not been affected in the three years of the covid-19 pandemic. Life assessments from 2020 to 2022 have been “remarkably resilient,” the report says, with global averages basically in line with the three years before the pandemic.
“Even during these difficult years, positive emotions have remained twice as frequent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support are twice as strong as those of loneliness,” Helliwell said in a statement.
The report, which is published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, is based on data from global surveys of people in more than 150 countries. Countries are ranked on happiness based on their average life assessments over the previous three years, in this case from 2020 to 2022.
The report identifies the happiest nations, those at the bottom of the happiness scale and everything in between, plus the factors that tend to lead to higher happiness.
Finland, with the winning streak of six years as the happiest country in the world
For the sixth year in a row, Finland is the happiest country in the world, according to World Happiness Report rankings based largely on life assessments from the Gallup World Poll.
The Nordic country and its neighbors Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Norway score very well on the measures the report uses to explain its findings: healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support, low corruption, generosity in a community where the people take care of each other and freedom to make key decisions in life.
But since not all of us can move to Finland, is there anything other societies can learn from these rankings?
“Are they doing things we wish we’d seen sooner and we can start doing? Or is it something unique in their climate and history that makes them different? And luckily, at least from my perspective, the answer is the former,” said Helliwell, who is professor emeritus at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia.
Adopting a holistic vision of the well-being of all components of a society and its members contributes to better evaluations of life and happier countries.
“The goal of any institution should be to contribute what it can to human well-being,” says the report, which includes accounting for future generations and preserving basic human rights.
In the 2023 ranking, Israel moved up to No. 4 this year from No. 9 last year. The Netherlands (No. 5), Switzerland (No. 8), Luxembourg (No. 9) and New Zealand (No. 10) complete the top 10.
Australia (No. 12), Canada (No. 13), Ireland (No. 14), the United States (No. 15) and the United Kingdom (No.19) all rank in the top 20.
While the same countries tend to appear in the top 20 year after year, there’s a new entrant this year: Lithuania.
The Baltic nation has been climbing steadily over the past six years from 52nd in 2017 to 20th on the most recent list. And the other Baltic countries, Estonia (31st place) and Latvia (41st place), have also been climbing positions.
“It’s essentially the same story that’s playing out in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe,” Helliwell said.
Countries in those regions “have probably normalized that post-1990 transition and [se] feel more solid in their new identity” as the years go by, he said.
France fell from the top 20 to No. 21 in this year’s report.
The list of the happiest countries in Latin America
The report says on Latin America “still have half-life assessments that are significantly higher (about 0.5 on the 0-10 scale) than predicted by the model.”
According to the report, the difference has been attributed to a variety of factors, including some unique characteristics of family and social life in Latin American countries.
And this could explain why the countries of the region recently appeared in the ranking of more than 150 countries in position 23, with Costa Rica at the top of this list, followed by Uruguay and Chile.
These are the countries with the highest position on the happiness list.
- Costa Rica (No. 23)
- Uruguay (No. 28)
- Chile (No. 35)
- Mexico (No. 36)
- Panama (No. 38)
- Nicaragua (No. 40)
- Brazil (No. 49)
- El Salvador (No. 41)
- Argentina (No. 52)
- Honduras (No. 53)
Other “less happy” countries
At the bottom of the list is Afghanistan at No. 137. Lebanon is a notch higher at No. 136.
Average life ratings in these countries are more than five points lower (on a scale of 0 to 10) than in the 10 happiest countries.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put both countries in the global spotlight when the 2022 report was released.
So where do these two nations stand, according to the latest polls?
Well-being in Ukraine has definitely taken a hit, but “despite the magnitude of suffering and damage in Ukraine, life assessments in September 2022 remained higher than after the 2014 annexation, supported now by a sense strongest of common purpose, benevolence and trust in the Ukrainian leadership,” the report says.
Trust in their governments grew in both countries in 2022, the survey says, “but much more in Ukraine than in Russia.” And Ukrainian support for the leadership in Russia fell to zero.
In this year’s ranking, Russia ranks 70th and Ukraine 92nd.
A look into the future
The disruptions of the pandemic have caused much thought.
“People are rethinking their life goals,” Helliwell said. “They’re saying, ‘I’m going back, but what am I going back to? What do I want to go back to? How do I want to spend the rest of my life?’”
He hopes this “movement toward thinking about values and other people more explicitly” will affect not only factors like what jobs or schools people choose, but also how they operate within those environments.
“It’s not really about grades or salary, it’s about cooperating with other people in a useful way. And of course, that’s good for the world, but the point of this happiness research is that it’s also good for the people who do it.
“In other words, you end up feeling better about yourself if you actually take care of other people instead of being number one.”
The happiest countries in the world for 2023
10. New Zealand
15. United States
18. Czech Republic
19. United Kingdom
Source: CNN Espanol