Getty Helsinki, Finland
In a year filled with heartache and strife, one European country has remained consistent in its happiness, topping the World Happiness Report for the fourth year in a row.
Finland came in at No. 1 in happiness for 2021, according to a new report released Friday that included four other European countries in the Top 5.
Though the report has come out each year since 2012, this year's posed a "unique challenge" due to the pandemic, which prevented most of the face-to-face interviews typically used to compile data.
"We need urgently to learn from COVID-19," co-editor Jeffrey Sachs said. "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 World Happiness Report 2021 reminds us that we must aim for wellbeing rather than mere wealth, which will be fleeting indeed if we don't do a much better job of addressing the challenges of sustainable development."
The report called Finland's win "no surprise," and said that it consistently ranked high in measuring mutual trust, which has helped protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic.
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John Helliwell, a professor at the University of British Columbia who contributed to the report, said that despite COVID, this year saw no actual average decline in well-being when measured by people's own evaluation of their lives.
"One possible explanation is that people see COVID-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody and that this has generated a greater sense of solidarity and fellow-feeling," he said.
Following Finland, the other countries that made the top 10 were, in order, Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Norway, New Zealand and Austria, according to CNN.
The United States jumped up several spots from 18th to 14th place, while the United Kingdom did the opposite, falling from 13th to 18th place.
The report said that in measuring well-being, there were various cultural differences at play from place to place, including confidence in public institutions, knowledge from previous epidemics, and even things such as whether the head of government was a woman, or whether a lost wallet was likely to be returned.
"This has been a very challenging year, but the early data also show some notable signs of resilience in feelings of social connection and life evaluations," said Lara Aknin, a professor from Simon Fraser University who contributed to the report.