World Happiness Day: World Happiness Report Summary
Today is one of our favourite days on the calendar… (drum roll please) it’s World Happiness Day! On the 10th anniversary of World Happiness Day, we reflect on the last 10 years of reports, before drilling down into some of the findings from the 2022 World Happiness Report.
A Decade of Happiness Data Review
Over the last ten years, there has been a noticeable change in public interest surrounding happiness. We’re happy to report that policy-creators around the globe are seeing the value in happiness! With pressure from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), nearly all its members collect annual data on the happiness of their people. Plus, The European Union asks its members to put happiness and wellbeing at the heart of their policies.
Happiness Report Summary For 2021
There has, on average, been a long-term moderate upward trend in stress, worry, and sadness in most countries and a slight long-term decline in the enjoyment of life.
Looking back at 2021 the data suggests that average life evaluations (which is measured with a score out of 10 based on an evaluation of people’s current lives as a whole) remained surprisingly resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic. Younger generations' life satisfaction has dropped whilst those in their 60s has increased. Worry and stress levels increased 4% against pre-pandemic levels, which is less than 2020.
For the fifth year in a row, Finland ranked the highest for life evaluation with a score of 7.821 out of 10. Afghanistan came in lowest with a score of 2.404. The UK ranked number 17 (same as last year) with a score of 6.943 and France scored 6.687 in 20th position, its highest place to date.
On the positive side, the most remarkable change seen during COVID-19 has been the global upsurge in benevolence in 2021.
In every global region, there have been large increases in people giving charitable donations, helping strangers and doing voluntary work. This brought the global average up by a quarter in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic. It's also been reported that the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of trust for human wellbeing.
Among positive experiences, Eastern culture gives special value to experiences of balance and harmony. These are important, low-arousal positive emotions, but they have been relatively neglected in happiness research, which has stronger roots in Western cultures.
Questions were asked around the following topics:
Feeling at peace with your life
Experiencing calm for a lot of the day
Preferring a calm life to an exciting life
Focus on caring for others or self.
Western countries experience higher levels of satisfaction as well as balance, peace and calm, whilst poorer countries are much lower.
A Bit of (Neuro)Science
The report discusses how genes and environment are correlated to influence how happy a person is. Genes make it easier for some people to feel happier than others, but more notably can affect a person's choice of environment, which then leads to environmental influences over genetic make-up.
As we know, chemicals in the brain can also influence happiness and wellbeing “with higher levels of serotonin and lower levels of cortisol, whereas chronic activity of the immune system is linked to lower wellbeing.”
For the future, the prospects for happiness will depend on a whole range of factors, including the future course of the pandemic and the scale of military conflict. But an important contribution will come from improvements in the science of happiness.
Measuring happiness is something we at The Happiness index have taken seriously from the off, but it’s encouraging to see that references to happiness and subjective wellbeing have drastically increased over the last 10 years according to this report.
Here’s hoping happiness becomes more important and prevalent in the next decade!
See below for links to all the World Happiness Reports:
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