Finland world’s happiest nation, global benevolence on the rise: report

By LISA KLEIN

Finland once again takes the top spot as the world’s happiest country, according to the 2022 World Happiness Report.

The annual publication celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, along with Finland’s 5th as number one.

“Data considered in the World Happiness Report offers a snapshot of how people around the world evaluate their own happiness and some of the latest insights from the science of well-being,” said Lara Aknin, professor and social psychologist and one of the editors of the report.

“This information is incredibly powerful for understanding the human condition and how to help people, communities and countries work toward happier lives,” she said.

Smile studies

Started with a 2011 United Nations resolution aiming to give more importance to happiness, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network has amassed a decade’s worth of data on what causes humans to feel good about life.

There has been a recent increase in interest in the subject, and the SDSN hopes the insights gained from its research will help countries enact polices that will make their people happier.

While overall global happiness has remained fairly steady, there have been wide variations regionally over the years depending on swings in politics, economics and natural phenomena.

The 2022 report found that while the COVID-19 pandemic brought on mass worldwide suffering, it also spurred and uptick in benevolence. Trust, in others and government, became a more important factor.

“Helping strangers, volunteering and donations in 2021 were strongly up in every part of the world, reaching levels almost 25 percent above their pre-pandemic prevalence,” said John Helliwell, economist and report editor.

“This surge of benevolence … provides powerful evidence that people respond to help others in need, creating in the process more happiness for the beneficiaries, good examples for others to follow, and better lives for themselves,” he said.

Winning wellness

The five happiest countries on Earth this year are Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands – the three Nordic nations nearly always in the top 10. The five least happy countries are Botswana, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania in Eastern Europe saw the largest gains in happiness, while Afghanistan, Venezuela and Lebanon dipped the most.

The data used to measure happiness in each country comes from the Gallup World Poll. This survey has citizens in more than 150 countries evaluate their own lives by asking questions about laughter, contentment, trust, stress, worry, and other positive and negative emotions.

Six key factors have been identified that act as predictors for a nation’s happiness level: GDP, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom to make life choices, perceived corruption in government and generosity.

“The lesson of the World Happiness Report over the years is that social support, generosity to one another and honesty in government are crucial for well-being,” said Jeffrey Sachs, economist, author, professor and report editor.

“World leaders should take heed,” he said. “Politics should be directed as the great sages long ago insisted – to the well-being of the people, not the power of the rulers.”

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