• Jonathon Allen, CFP®

The World Happiness report is out - and it was surprising.

COVID-19 has disrupted just about every aspect of people’s lives – work, home, family, friends, and health – in every country of the world. Knowing this, it seems logical people would be less happy in 2020 than they had been in previous years. However, the findings of The World Happiness Report tell a different and more complex story. The authors explained:

“Many strands of data have been pieced together to produce a picture of almost astonishing resilience…Although there were significant increases in average sadness and worry, we found that overall life evaluations, and happiness rankings, were surprising stable. The top countries before the pandemic remained the top countries in 2020, so there is little change in the overall rankings.”

For the world as a whole, it appears negative changes in some variables, such as emotions and unemployment, were offset by positive changes in other variables, such as trust and generosity.

The remarkable stability of happiness may also reflect the fact some of population groups are not normally included in surveys – people who are homeless, in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, and refugee camps – were also some those hit hardest by the virus.

There was another notable aspect of the study. Young people were significantly less happy in 2020 than they have been in previous years. The Economist explained:

“[In Britain], and in other rich countries, the age profile of happiness before the pandemic struck was roughly U-shaped when plotted on a graph. People began their adult lives in a cheerful state. They became glummer in middle age. Then, after about the age of 50, they started to become happier again…Today the pattern is an upward slope. The young are less satisfied than the middle-aged, who are less satisfied than the old.”

So, which countries were happiest in 2020? The top 10 included:

  1. Finland

  2. Iceland

  3. Denmark

  4. Switzerland

  5. Netherlands

  6. Sweden

  7. Germany

  8. Norway

  9. New Zealand

  10. Austria