The World Happiness Report


For most, 2021 was a hard year. From beginning to end the world was dealing with the effects of Covid-19. Death, isolation, division, desperation. Everyone experienced plenty of hardships in 2021. From an American perspective, there wasn’t a single person who was unaffected by the lockdown and the other repercussions that came with Covid. From minor mental health impacts to losing jobs, houses, and family members, the pandemic has hurt everyone. An interesting question that we can now answer thanks to The World Happiness Report is: How has the pandemic affected individual happiness across the world?

The World Happiness Report has published a large-scale study of data collected from the Gallup World Poll in relation to the happiness of the people in countries across the globe. The first WHR came out in 2012 and immediately gained credibility by being cited by the New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, etc. They give a detailed description of their grading criteria in which they use factors such as GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perceptions of corruption. Based on all this, they created a list of about 150 countries ranked on happiness.

In 2021, the top 10 countries didn’t change much from previous years. Finland has ranked number one for the fifth year in a row, with Iceland and Denmark coming second and third respectively. These countries have dealt with Covid exceptionally well. Taking a look at Finland, it’s clear why they maintained their role as the happiest country.

Finland, as of March 28th, had 859,477 total reported cases since their first one in January of 2020. Finland responded very quickly, initiating a national emergency as early as March 2020. Not only this, they implemented fairly routine social policies such as masks, capacity caps, social distancing, etc. However, because of the people’s trust in their government and each other, they saw much better results from their restrictions. 70% of the people say that they thought the government’s response to the pandemic was reasonable. And 74% said that they had worried about the coronavirus affecting their daily lives. Now, while there are many, many more factors that go into these rankings, we can look at these alone to see why the United States ranks 13th despite the economic domination. 

When we look at the impact Coronavirus has had on the U.S, it is much less uniting. In fact, it added more to our partisan division. If we compare the statistics I mentioned for Finland to America, it’s disappointing to see how poor our country performs. As of now, the U.S.  has had 80 million cases of coronavirus and we are nearing one million deaths sitting at 979,000. Finland had just over 3,000 deaths. Even if we put this to a population ratio it’s shocking.  If you take our’s, around 24.3% of people have gotten Covid. In Finland, about 15.5% of people have gotten Covid.

If we also look at public opinion and the response to Covid in these countries, we see not only did the U.S government fail, the citizens did not make it any better.

I encourage you to read Pew Research’s article titled “A Year of U.S. Public Opinion on the Coronavirus Pandemic.” It provides many numerical statistics presenting the political divide in America responding to covid. They mention how about 56% of Democrats expressed concern about the pandemic in comparison to 33% of Republicans. Both of which are lower than the national average in Finland. By March of 2020, the national percentage in America was 36%.

All of the public response statistics reflect these numbers. Democrats seemed far more concerned about the pandemic than Republicans. We also see that nationally, Republicans thought the initial response to covid was effective yet later restrictions were unnecessary and harmful to the persons. 

The U.S. has the facilities to be the happiest country in the world, but our politics block us from reaching a real consensus on how to be a functioning democracy. We the people need to be just that WE. The status quo has created a division in the country that has actually caused more unnecessary death due to the pandemic. We as a country need to recognize that our failure is due to nothing but ourselves.