It seems a strange time to be talking about finding the happiest countries on the planet, but Switzerland has landed in third place in the annual World Happiness Report, published by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Finland topped the poll for the fourth year in a row, with Denmark (another previous table-topper on several occasions) in second place. The rest of the top five was taken up by Iceland in fourth place and the Netherlands in fifth.
Launched in 2012, the World Happiness Report (WHR) presents a snapshot of global happiness, based on a range of factors usually measured by Gallup World Poll surveys over the previous three years. Due to the pandemic, however, Gallup wasn’t able to conduct the same number of face-to-face interviews for this latest version of the report, so “computer-assisted” personal interviews and telephone interviews were used as an additional data-gathering tool.
With the pandemic also casting a grim shadow over global happiness during the last 12 months, this year’s report inevitably focused on how Covid-19 has shaped global wellbeing, as well as how governments have dealt with the crisis. The effects of Covid-19 on factors such as social connections, work and mental health were examined in the 2021 WHR, with extra attention given to people’s specific emotions on a day-to-day basis, “to better track how Covid-19 has altered different aspects of life.”
Based on the standard data measurement from the previous three years (2018-2020), Switzerland grabbed that impressive third place in the 2021 report. Switzerland has always performed respectably in the WHR, taking the top spot in 2015 before gradually dropping down the table into sixth place by 2019, jumping back up to the third place for the 2020 edition. The UK didn’t fare quite as well, ranking 17th in the 2021 report.
Of the 149 countries included in the 2021 report, Afghanistan was ranked as the least happy, with Zimbabwe in 148th place, just above Rwanda in 147th.
On the World Happiness Report website, one of the report’s editors, Professor John F. Helliwell from the University of British Columbia, notes that “Surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people’s own evaluation of their lives. 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.”
So, while it may not exactly feel like a time to jump for joy, it’s encouraging to remember that, actually, there is still plenty of happiness out there (even if we arrive at it through slightly different means these days), and hopefully a lot more of it coming our way in the not-too-distant future.
By Tristan Parker