The World More Benevolent Since Covid, Nordic Countries Still the Happiest

Happiness is something that should never be underrated. Finland and Denmark ranked as the happiest and second-happiest lands, and the top eight were all in northern Europe. It is true one’s version of happiness is different to another, be it cultural or luck. With the drums of war beating loudly through Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Middle East with Iran, Syria and Yemen all vulnerable or in conflict. Afghanistan, Lebanon and Zimbabwe are the unhappiest, as war-torn and impoverished countries always do.

Data for the survey, issued by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a United Nations affiliate, was compiled before the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine (No. 98) by Russia (No. 60)

Freedom In The World 2018 Map

Freedom is a subjective measure and means different things to different people. Nothing new here is you live in Beverly Hills or downtown Damascus what counts as freedom are totally different.

Aristotle acknowledged the good-fortune component of happiness. Your place of birth has a lot to do with that. Being born into a situation where you have the capacity to try to make yourself happy is part of the equation. The U.S. came in at No. 16. being in a society or culture that is not driven by outside greed or self-entitlement skews happiness. Perhaps also a reflection of the disparity of rich and poor and the commercialization of materialist measures and the scaring the heck out of the nation seemingly endlessly with politics, pandemic and other means. For a country supposedly dedicated to “the pursuit of happiness” enough is never good enough.

The color-coded sub-bars in each country row represent the extent to which six key variables contribute to explaining life evaluations. These variables (shown in Table 2.1) are GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption.

The happiness rankings are not based on any index of these six factors — the scores are instead based on individuals’ own assessments of their lives, as revealed by their answers to the single-item Cantril ladder life-evaluation question.

Scoring Freedom

  • Political rights rated on a scale of 0-40 – Free and fair elections, political participation and pluralism.
  • Civil liberties rated on a scale of 0-60 – Free and independent media, freedom of expression and assembly.

When people are free they are happy, no surprise there. The World Happiness Report of 2018 is a list of the top 10 happiest places in 2018, the Freedom House’s top 10 countries is largely the same rankings.

Worry and sadness have been rising over the past ten years, especially during 2020, the first year of COVID-19, before improving somewhat in 2021.

The third panel shows negative affect, its three components separately (worry, sadness and anger), and stress, all referring to a person’s feelings on the day preceding the survey. The levels and patterns are quite different from positive affect, and their average levels are less than half as high. After five reasonably stable years (2005/06 through 2010), worry and sadness have been rising over the past ten years, especially during 2020, the first year of COVID-19, before improving somewhat in 2021. Anger remains much less frequent, with no significant trend changes. The average for negative affect was about 0.25 for the first five years and followed a fairly steady upward trend since, with a jump in 2020 and mostly returning to the underlying trend in 2021. Stress, which is not a component of our negative affect measure, was also fairly constant for the first five years but has increased steadily ever since, faster than worry or sadness, with its steepest increase in 2020.

Growth of benevolence during 2020 and 2021


As shown in Figures 2.5 and 2.6, a striking feature of our new evidence is that the size of the increase since 2017-2019 in the helping of strangers has doubled from 2020 to 2021 and is now accompanied by significant increases in donations and volunteering. While benevolence has increased in 2021 relative to both 2017-2019 and 2020, negative affect in 2021 has fallen back towards the 2017-2019 baseline.

Hence, relative to 2020, the second year of COVID-19 has seen global growth of prosocial activities of all three types combined, while negative affect is now only slightly above baseline.

Giving help to strangers in 2021 was above baseline in all global regions and by more than 10% of the population in six of the ten. Moreover, everywhere, it was also above its 2020 value. The prosociality average is also higher in 2021 in every region than in the 2017-2019 baseline, also showing in all regions an increase from 2020 to 2021.

The variable ‘prosocial’ is an average of the measures for donations, volunteering and helping strangers. In 2021 this combined measure of benevolence was above its pre-pandemic level by 8% as a share of the total population of responders, 25% of the pre-pandemic frequency of these prosocial acts.

What stood out to us, rememeber this was before the Russian invasion of the Ukraine in the report “was that among the regions, some interesting patterns appear. Before the pandemic, prosociality was significantly higher in Western than in Eastern Europe, averaging 38% in Western Europe and 24% in Eastern Europe.

In 2021, prosociality was up by 2% in Western Europe and 16% in Eastern Europe, erasing the pre-pandemic gap.

At the global level, a somewhat similar comparison can be made. In 2017-2019 the percentage of the population involved in the selected prosocial acts was 40% in the western industrial countries[62] and 30% in the rest of the world. This gap was substantially closed in 2021 and especially in 2021. Prosociality in 2021 was greater than baseline in both groups of countries, by 2.5% of the population in the western industrial countries and by 9.5% in all other regions, thus removing two-thirds of the 2017-2019 gap.

One could include the hardships from COVID19 has also helped bring communities closer together, we saw that in Eastern Europe and with the resolve against Russia by the ‘Happier” nations in the Nordic and Baltic nations willingness to defend other’s happiness. It also aided the coming together of Ukrainians in defending themselves versus the Russians.

Source: Freedom House, World Happiness Report

From The TradersCommunity Research Desk

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