Finland may be the world's happiest country for five years running — but the U.S. is gaining ground.
That's according to the 10th annual World Happiness Report, published on Friday by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The U.S. now ranks as the 16th happiest country in the world, lagging just behind Ireland, Germany and Canada.
That's a three-spot gain from last year, when the U.S. was 19th. The U.S. now ranks above countries like the United Kingdom, Czechia, Belgium and France in an array of happiness metrics.
The report uses Gallup World Poll data from 2019 through 2021 to score 146 countries across factors including gross domestic product per capita, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption.
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Researchers note that Finland's victory isn't even close this time around: Its score is "significantly ahead" of any other country. Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands round out the top five, in that order.
The report says that, on average, the world is experiencing a long-term moderate upward trend in stress, worry and sadness, and a slight long-term decline in the enjoyment of life. But average life evaluations, which take into account the net difference of negative and positive influences, have remained "remarkably resilient during Covid-19."
John Helliwell, a professor at the University of British Columbia who helped edit the report, noted a "remarkable worldwide growth" in three acts of kindness measured by the Gallup World Poll: helping strangers, volunteering and making donations. Altogether, the global average of these three actions was up by 25% in 2021, compared with pre-pandemic times.
Notably, data for the report was collected prior to Russia's attack on Ukraine. Authors say future prospects for global happiness will depend on the course of the Covid pandemic and the scale of military conflict.
"The pandemic brought not only pain and suffering but also an increase in social support and benevolence," the report reads. "As we battle the ills of disease and war, it is essential to remember the universal desire for happiness and the capacity of individuals to rally to each other's support in times of great need."
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