An annual worldwide happiness survey found that positive emotions and overall levels of life satisfaction remained surprisingly stable across the globe, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Scholars suggest that it predicts well for the resistance of mankind.
And yet levels of happiness are higher on some continents than on others.
European nations once again dominated the list of happiest countries to be in World Happiness Report, with Finland at the top of the list for both 2020 and the three-year average 2018-2020. But Finnish bragging rights over neighboring nations need to be softened. The results at the top of the rankings for 2020 alone were close enough not to be statistically significant, the researchers note.
The report, released by the United Nations Network for Sustainable Development Solutions, is the end product of independent researchers deployed across the globe. The team bases its findings primarily on the results of the annual Gallup World survey, which typically conducts interviews with people living in 149 countries. (Due to the pandemic, the poll could only go to nearly 100 countries this year.)
Trust in government is associated with increased happiness
To calculate overall happiness, the Gallup World Survey asks participants to rate their lives on a scale of 1 to 1010 by being happier based on six specific factors: GDP per capita, social support, healthy longevity, generosity , freedom and perceptions of corruption.
Northern Europeans high levels of reported happiness are likely to come from stability in their countries and their trust in government, even during a pandemic. People feel safe in those places, so trust is high, Jeffrey Sachs an economist at Columbia University and one of the co-authors of the reports, told the Associated Press. The government is seen to be trustworthy and honest, and trust in each other is high.
Countries at the bottom of the scale disproportionately represented Africa and the Middle East. Those countries tended to perform worse due to their lower levels of GDP per capita, social support and longevity.
Lack of stress on employment, finances, food and health are some of the things that contribute to happiness, which is more the result of a comprehensive satisfaction than a quick feeling, Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of the book Joyful: The astonishing power of ordinary things to create extraordinary pillss, told Quartz earlier. The countries that dominated the list in 2020 had also been the main contenders in previous years, probably due to the relatively stable living conditions there.
Finding moments of joy, even in a pandemic
The researchers saw an increase in the amount of negative emotions that people reported from day to day. More people reported feeling more anxiety, sadness, or anger within the past 24 hours than they had in previous years.
But the number of positive emotions that people reported still exceeds negative emotions by about two to one.
To assess these types of feelings, interviewers asked respondents if they had smiled or laughed the day before. While people in 25 countries reported fewer of these positive encounters overall, people in 22 countries reported more, and the rest were relatively similar to previous years.
Given the way all lives have been ruined so much in importance, it is remarkable that the averages are so stable, the report notes. This shows that even during some of the most unpredictable, destabilizing circumstances, occasions of joy like breaking a joke, getting out in a sunrise or enjoying a meal with loved ones can still be found and appreciated.