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 jumped by about 25% in 2021 compared with pre-pandemic levels, the report says.
World’s happiest nation is Nordic
For the fifth year in a row, Finland is the world’s happiest country, according to World Happiness Report rankings based largely on life evaluations from the Gallup World Poll.
The Nordic country and its neighbors Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland all score very well on the measures the report uses to explain its findings: healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support in times of trouble, low corruption and high social trust, generosity in a community where people look after each other and freedom to make key life decisions.
Denmark comes in at No. 2 in this year’s rankings, followed by Iceland at No. 3. Sweden and Norway are seventh and eighth, respectively.
Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg take places 4 through 6, with Israel coming in at No. 9 and New Zealand rounding out the top 10.
Canada (No. 15), the United States (No. 16) and the United Kingdom (No. 17) all made it into the top 20.
Happiness in troubled times
Another bright spot in this year’s report: Worry and stress dipped in the pandemic’s second year. While they were still up 4% in 2021 versus pre-pandemic, worry and stress in 2020 were up by 8%.
“I think part of that is people knew a little more what they were dealing with in the second year, even if there were new surprises,” Helliwell said.
Average life evaluations “have remained remarkably resilient” during the pandemic, with negative and positive influences offsetting each other, the report says.
“For the young, life satisfaction has fallen, while for those over 60, it has risen — with little overall change,” according to the report.
The surveys this year’s happiness rankings were based on were conducted well before the invasion. Ukraine and Russia both fall into the bottom half of world rankings for happiness in the 2022 report, with Ukraine at No. 98 and Russia at No. 80.
At No. 146, Afghanistan is at the very bottom of the rankings in the 2022 report, “a stark reminder of the material and immaterial damage that war does to its many victims,” Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, another report editor, said in a news release.
The world’s happiest countries, 2022 edition
10. New Zealand
16. United States
17. United Kingdom
18. Czechia (Czech Republic)