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Key Insights From 2021’s World Happiness Report


Apr. 8, 2021 Psychology Today

Here are three of the more compelling takeaways from this year’s report.

Takeaway #1: Finland retains its spot as the world’s happiest country

Finland is the happiest country in the world for the fourth year in a row, tallying a 7.889 on the “average life evaluations” measure, shown here:

“Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?”

Other top performers were Iceland (7.575), Denmark (7.515), Switzerland (7.508), the Netherlands (7.504), Sweden (7.314), Germany (7.312), Norway (7.290), New Zealand (7.257), and Austria (7.213).

And, of the 95 countries surveyed in 2020, the top 10 unhappiest countries were Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Jordan, India, Cambodia, Benin, Myanmar, Namibia, Egypt, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

Takeaway #2: Croatia makes gains, the United Kingdom dips

Zambia, Croatia, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan were the countries that showed the most improvement when comparing 2020 happiness ratings to earlier years. Impressively, Croatia jumped from 61st to 23rd position. This may have something to do with policies that kept Croatian citizens working during the pandemic while citizens of other countries were forced into employment hiatuses. The researchers also point out that the pandemic’s effect on employment disparities between high-skilled and low-skilled workers in Croatia wasn’t nearly as pronounced as in other countries such as Ireland and Portugal.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Philippines, El Salvador, Benin, Malta, and Ecuador showed the steepest declines in happiness in 2020. Other notable dips were found in the United Kingdom (13th to 18th position), Canada (10th to 15th position), and the UAE (19th to 27th position).

The United States improved its standing slightly, to 14th place (previously 16th). And, despite its troubles with COVID-19, Italy improved from 28th to 25th place.

Takeaway #3: The world shows resilience in the face of COVID-19

In comparing average overall life evaluations in 2020 to 2017-2019, the researchers found evidence of a (statistically non-significant) uptick. Gains were most apparent in East Asia and South Asia while Latin America and the Caribbean showed the steepest regional declines.

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