Devastating loss of life and growing uncertainty have the world very much on edge, but there is a bit of good news for humanity: Benevolence is surging globally.
That’s one of the key findings of the World Happiness Report, a publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network that draws on global survey data from people in about 150 countries.
Marking its 10th anniversary, the report looks at happiness around the world — the happiest nations, those at the very bottom of the happiness scale and everything in between, plus the factors that tend to lead to greater happiness.
And with two years of Covid-19 pandemic data on the books, the report has uncovered something unexpected.
“The big surprise was that globally, in an uncoordinated way, there have been very large increases in all the three forms of benevolence that are asked about in the Gallup World Poll,” John Helliwell, one of the report’s three founding editors, told CNN Travel.
Donating to charity, helping a stranger and volunteering are all up, “especially the help to strangers in 2021, relative to either before the pandemic or 2020, by a very large amount in all regions of the world,” said Helliwell, who is a professor emeritus at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia.
The global average of the three measures jumped by about 25% in 2021 compared with pre-pandemic levels, the report says.
And benevolence is certainly top of mind as the world responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But before getting into how that increasingly global conflict may impact happiness, let’s look at countries where the feeling was abundant in 2021.
World’s happiest nation is Nordic
For the fifth year in a row, Finland is the world’s happiest country, according to World Happiness Report rankings based largely on life evaluations from the Gallup World Poll.
The Nordic country and its neighbors Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland all score very well on the measures the report uses to explain its findings: healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support in times of trouble, low corruption and high social trust, generosity in a community where people look after each other and freedom to make key life decisions.
Denmark comes in at No. 2 in this year’s rankings, followed by Iceland at No. 3. Sweden and Norway are seventh and eighth, respectively.
Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg take places 4 through 6, with Israel coming in at No. 9 and New Zealand rounding out the top 10.
Canada (No. 15), the United States (No. 16) and the United Kingdom (No. 17) all made it into the top 20.