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Revealed: The 20 happiest countries in the world for 2021

·4-min read
Do you live in the world's happiest country? Source: Getty
Do you live in the world's happiest country? Source: Getty

The global pandemic and economic turmoil has caused 12 solid months of lockdowns, uncertainty, job losses and even death, but an annual report on global happiness suggests that while anxiety and fear are at an all-time high, the pandemic hasn’t dampened spirits.

The recently released 2021 World Happiness Report shows that while there has been a huge disruption to the daily lives of nearly everyone around the world amid Covid-19, there has been a surprising resilience in how people rate their lives overall.

It even surprised the editors of the report that amidst global hardship, self-reported life satisfaction across 95 countries on average remained steady throughout 2021.

The World Happiness Report for 2021 focuses on the effects of Covid-19 and how people all over the world have fared.

The report aimed to not only focus on the side effects of the pandemic on the quality and structure of people’s lives but also evaluate how governments worldwide reacted and dealt with the pandemic.

Where does Australia place?

Australia held its place as the 12th happiest country in the world for the second year running.

Ok so Australia isn’t at the top of the list, but considering the fall out of the past 12 months, we should be proud of the stability that our economy and our leaders have provided throughout the pandemic.

Australia, like New Zealand, is one of the few countries around the world which has managed to keep Covid-19 infections low, re-open the economy without major second waves and begin a recovery process.

All of this has had a significant impact on the happiness of Australia’s citizens.

Australians have a lot to be grateful for.

I certainly still think we are lucky that we live in the best country in the world at the best time in history.

“The evidence shows that people’s morale improves when the government acts,” says the report’s editors.

World’s happiest countries 2021

For the fourth year running, Finland has come out on top in the annual list powered by data from the Gallup World Poll, with Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands following in second, third, fourth and fifth position respectively.

The United States, which was ranked 13 five years ago, slipped from 18th to 19th place.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom fell from the 13th position to 18th.

"We need urgently to learn from Covid-19," said report co-editor Jeffrey Sachs, professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

"The pandemic reminds us of our global environmental threats, the urgent need to cooperate, and the difficulties of achieving cooperation in each country and globally."

The top 20 happiest countries in the world

  1. Finland

  2. Iceland

  3. Denmark

  4. Switzerland

  5. Netherlands

  6. Sweden

  7. Germany

  8. Norway

  9. New Zealand

  10. Austria

  11. Israel

  12. Australia

  13. Ireland

  14. United States

  15. Canada

  16. Czech Republic

  17. Belgium

  18. United Kingdom

  19. China

  20. France

Why do the Nordic countries always rate so high?

It seems a raft of Europe’s Nordic countries continue to rank highly even throughout the past 12 months.

For the fourth year in a row, Finland has been named as the happiest country in the world, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands.

While I would originally question the appeal of living in just a cold country (there must be something I don’t understand), it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence.

In fact, Nordic countries historically rank so highly on the happiness report because of the support their governments give them.

Free healthcare, free education, low crime rates, extended parental and annual leave compared to the rest of the world, are just a few highlights of living in these countries.

For example, new parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80 per cent of their normal pay.

The Nordic have absolutely hit the nail on the head when it comes to work-life balance, which happens to be one of the key contributors for happiness.

The unhappiest countries in the world

Besides the happiest countries in the world, the Happiness Report also looked at the places where people are the most miserable.

And there were some common themes.

Most are located in underdeveloped countries which have experienced war, armed conflict, political instability or natural catastrophes.

This year, the lowest-scoring country in the World Happiness Report is Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s low life expectancy rate, paired with low gross domestic product rates per capita are the key reasons for its low ranking.

Zimbabwe comes in as the country with the second lowest rank for happiness across the world.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the report showed that the people were unhappy with the country’s economic direction.

Rwanda, Botswana and Lesotho round out the remainder of the list of the world’s five most unhappy countries.

The bottom 10 most unhappy countries in the world

  1. Afghanistan

  2. Zimbabwe

  3. Rwanda

  4. Botswana

  5. Lesotho

  6. Malawi

  7. Haiti

  8. Tanzania

  9. Yemen

  10. Burundi

Michael Yardney is a director of Metropole Property Strategists, which creates wealth for its clients through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He is a best-selling author, one of Australia's leading experts in wealth creation through property and writes the Property Update blog.

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