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Finland ranks as world's happiest country (again) despite corona crisis

As 2020 was a very different year, the Happiness Report looked at the negative and positive effects of the pandemic.

Respondents said positive feelings during the pandemic year had been prompted by volunteering, exercise, caring for a pet or a feeling of general gratitude. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

For the fourth year in a row Finland ranked as the happiest country in the world, according to this year's World Happiness Report.

Unlike in previous years, the happiness index included surveys on how countries have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world for more than a year.

The report's authors said this year's survey examined the effects of the crisis on the structure and quality of people's lives as well as looked at how governments dealt with it.

Trailing behind Finland on the happiness index (siirryt toiseen palveluun)were Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

All of the Nordic countries were ranked within the list's top 10, while Estonia was 28th and Russia 60th most happy out of the index's total of 149 nations.

The southern African country of Zimbabwe was listed at the bottom of the happiness rankings. Meanwhile the 20 countries found at the bottom of the list were located in Africa, many of which were dealing with difficult situations, unrest or even civil war.

The annual, independent survey is organised by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Rankings were reached via several surveys but chiefly used data from the Gallup World Poll.

About 1,000 respondents in each country were asked to, for example, rate the quality of their lives on a scale of zero to 10.

Other questions included how many times respondents laughed or felt joy and satisfaction the previous day. Conversely, the survey also took into account negative emotions such as asking how often respondents had felt worry, sadness or anger the previous day.

Corona crisis effect

The happiness report is in its ninth year of publication, but this year it also looked at how countries and their inhabitants had dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey asked how people's lives and feelings may have changed during 2020 compared to the previous few years.

The causes of negative feelings included weakened economies, health worries of the respondent or a relative as well as job losses and difficulty finding employment.

Meanwhile, respondents said positive feelings during the pandemic year had been prompted by volunteering, exercise, caring for a pet or a feeling of general gratitude.

While organised by the UN, World Happiness Report was compiled "by a group of independent experts acting in their personal capacities. Any views expressed in [the] report do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization, agency or program of the United Nations," the report's website states.