List of happiest countries during pandemic revealed: Finland take the lead

There has been a surprising resilience in how people rate their lives overall, in spite of the pandemic, according to the annual World Happiness Report.
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Finland's residents enjoy a high quality of life, security, and public services, with rates of inequality and poverty among the lowest of all OECD countries. (Photo: Bloomberg)

In a year when loved ones, jobs, and individual freedoms were lost in the pandemic, it wouldn’t be surprising if people around the world felt greater dissatisfaction with their lives. However, while mental health has declined in many countries, there has been a surprising resilience in how people rate their lives overall, according to this year's World Happiness Report.

The annual happiness rankings are based on citizens' evaluations of their own lives. The study uses data from the Gallup World Poll, which asks respondents to assess their life as a whole by imagining a ladder, with the best possible life for them as 10 and the worst possible as 0. This year's report looked specifically at the relationship between well-being and Covid-19. It also attempts to assess how governments around the world have dealt with the coronavirus and to explain why some countries may have done better than others, CBS News cited.

Reflecting the global nature of the pandemic and the widely shared resilience when faced with it, Covid-19 has led to only modest changes in the overall country happiness rankings, according to the study, which is a publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The world's happiest country also stayed the same, as Finland came out on top for the fourth straight year. "For the 4th year in a row, #Finland is the happiest country in the world," tweeted the Finnish Embassy in the United States on Friday. "Our #happiness stems from a balanced everyday life, supported by good governance, trust, wellbeing, and equality. The pandemic has not changed this long-lasting foundation."

The world's happiest country also stayed the same, as Finland came out on top for the fourth straight year. (Photo: AFP)

Once again, the top spots were dominated by European countries - with Denmark coming second, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, and the Netherlands.

New Zealand, falling one place to ninth, was again the only non-European nation in the top 10. Singapore ranked 32 on the list. Australia came in at 11th and Taiwan on 24th. Other climbers included Germany, up from 17th to 13th, and France, rising two to 21st.

The UK, meanwhile, fell from 13th to 17th place, while the US fell one spot to 19th. African nations Lesotho, Botswana, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe came at the bottom of the table, but ahead of Afghanistan which was classed as the world's unhappiest nation this year.

"This year's Happiness Report was faced with a unique challenge in trying to understand what effect the pandemic has had on subjective well-being and vice versa," the organization behind the report said in a statement. "Of all the factors usually supporting happiness, the most important for explaining COVID-19 death rates were people's trust in each other, and confidence in their governments."

But positive emotions increased in 22 countries, and "surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people's own evaluation of their lives," John Helliwell, one of the report's compilers, said in a statement. "One possible explanation is that people see Covid-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody and that this has generated a greater sense of solidarity and fellow-feeling," Straits Times quoted.

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Valerie Mai
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