Report: People Happier During Pandemic Due To Kindness


By Rebecca Falconer

COVID-19 has killed millions and caused widespread disruptions to people's lives and global economies — but a major new study finds people are slightly happier than before the pandemic began.

The big picture: The 11th annual World Happiness Report, published Monday to coincide with the International Day of Happiness, surveyed over 100,000 people and found that Finland was the happiest country for the sixth straight year. The U.S. was ranked the 15th happiest nation.

Afghanistan was the least happy, with the Taliban-controlled nation ranking last at No. 137.

Meanwhile, the report found global misery declined slightly during the pandemic.

Driving the news: The "undoubted pains" the world faced over the pandemic "were offset by increases in the extent to which respondents had been able to discover and share the capacity to care for each other in difficult times," according to the report.

Benevolence to others has risen roughly 25% since the pandemic began, said John Helliwell, a professor of economics at the University of British Columbia and a co-editor of the report.

"Even during these difficult years, positive emotions have remained twice as prevalent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support twice as strong as those of loneliness," Helliwell said in a statement accompanying the report.

Of note: Co-author Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford, noted in an accompanying statement that "well-being in Ukraine has taken a real hit" since Russian forces invaded the country last year.

However, De Neve said the decline in well-being was less than in 2014 "when Russia annexed Crimea."

This was in part due to "the extraordinary rise in fellow feeling across Ukraine as picked up in data on helping strangers and donations," De Neve added.

Context: The United Nations set up the International Day of Happiness as "a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world," per a UN statement.

The report is published as part of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

How it works: The World Happiness Report research examines six key factors arising from self-reported levels of happiness across the world: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption — analysis the report states governments are increasingly using "to orient policies towards happiness."

World's happiest countries, ranked:

1. Finland

2. Denmark

3. Iceland

4. Israel

5. Netherlands

6. Sweden

7. Norway

8. Switzerland

9. Luxembourg

10. New Zealand

11. Austria

12. Australia

13. Canada

14. Ireland

15. United States

16. Germany

17. Belgium

18. Czech Republic

19. United Kingdom

20. Lithuania


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