World Happiness Report 2021 Reveals The Happiest Country In The World & What Makes A Country Happy

Photo: Rido/Shutterstock
happy women from around the world

The 2021 World Happiness Report has been released at last.

For four years in a row now, one country has been dubbed the happiest in the world, beating out many top contenders for the title.

What is the happiest country in the world in 2021?

As it has been for the past three years, the world's happiest country in 2021 is Finland. Iceland comes next in second place, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

The U.S. is doing progressively better in the rankings each year, claiming the number 14 spot this time around an improvement over the 18th spot it held in 2020 and 19th, which it held in 2019.

Other countries that made the list, which is produced annually by the U.N Sustainable Development Solutions Network, include Germany in 7th place, New Zealand in 9th, Israel in 11th, the Czech Republic in 16th, and China in 19th.

RELATED: 55 Iconic WandaVision Quotes About Love, Family, Life And Superpowers

Which country landed in last place? Dystopia.

You may be thinking, “Is that from the Marvel Universe?” But that would be silly. Because it’s a completely made up place that researchers use as a baseline for evaluating the happiness of every other country in the world. It’s the control for the experiment.

The word dystopia is the opposite of utopia, hence the reason for the fake country’s moniker.

Sadly, that means the citizens of Dystopia are very unhappy. They have zeroes in every category across the board.

What makes a country happy?

Generally speaking, we know what makes an individual happy, but a whole country? What’s the criteria?

“We say that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” says E. Oscar Alleyne, DrPH MPH, and Chief of Programs Officer for the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Alleyne, like other leaders in public health administration, looks at a holistic approach to health that includes factors like safety, employment, access to medical facilities, and more.

The six factors used to evaluate, score and rank each country are the following:

1. Levels of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

2. Life expectancy

3. Generosity

4. Social support

5. Freedom

6. Corruption

Viewed together, health officials can begin to surmise the general state of a population.

“The World Happiness Report clearly illustrates this principle as mental health, social wellbeing, economic stability, disparities and the global impact of this pandemic continue to be expressed differently by the various represented countries,” says Alleyne. “We have a long way to go to ensure and preserve our complete state of health and happiness.”

A statistically significant sampling of each nation’s population is surveyed based on the Cantril Ladder Method, using data from Gallup World Polls. The results of the report have a small margin of error of 5%.

RELATED: 6 Vital Things You Need On Your Happiness Checklist To Live Well

The Origins of the World Happiness Report

The report began in 2012 as a United Nations resolution. The UN, then under the direction of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and in partnership with the Prime Minister of Bhutan, offered to collect happiness surveys from member nations to develop a comparison in order to evaluate the wellbeing of world citizens.

Bhutan has been lauded for its involvement with the report. The country is famous for having switched from GDP to “gross national happiness” as its main measure of progress and development. The 2022 report is planned to include a 10-year anniversary edition with a formal recognition of Bhutan’s contribution.

Each year’s report is given a theme. This year’s theme is the impact of the pandemic on global health.

From mental health, to physical health, to the hardship that many face across a number of categories that influence the report, global authorities were faced with the challenge of measuring the total impact in quantitative terms.

The happiness reports are much more than simple reflections of data. They’re organized into several chapters that each discuss the meaning of the results. The overview, this year, is titled “Life Under Covid-19.”

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

Every chapter that follows is focused on one aspect of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. For example, chapter 2 is called “Happiness, trust, and deaths under Covid-19,” and chapter 5 is “Mental health and the Covid-19 pandemic.” Other chapters are dedicated to discussing how particular regions dealt with outbreaks, and whether or not they were successful. The lessons that can be learned from the analysis can be extraordinarily useful in dealing with future crises.

And the country that started it all? Bhutan has just a single Covid death in the entire nation.

RELATED: What My Son's Final Words Taught Me About Happiness

Global Health and Cooperation

The World Happiness Report signifies a dream held by the public health field: cooperative action in the face of detrimental factors to wellbeing. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that the majority of the planet has a rocky road ahead in order to meet the responsibilities of maintaining a healthy citizenry.

But what can we, as individuals, do with this data?

Turns out, all we have to do is stay positive.

"Studies focused on measuring the positive aspects of life such as life satisfaction and happiness have been able to identify single, positive variables that behave as health assets," says Dr. Sy Powell, OB/Gyn and Nutrition Health Coach at Authentic Nutrition, LLC.

Much like the data derived from the report and the mechanisms that have produced it. We can define health and wellbeing in our own lives and seek positivity in several unique ways, beyond those with demonstrable root causes.

"It comes down to the intangibles," says Powell. "Your emotions and your perspective of your life after security, shelter, and food issues have been adequately satisfied. Wellbeing and flourishing are not simply states of happiness, rather they are the combination of subjective and measurable positive health variables that work together to create overall prosperity, health, and wellbeing. And you get to choose."

The annual publication and ranking of happy populations is one way that nations are held accountable to one another, and reminded of their mutual obligation to the people of the world.

On an individual basis, all of us can do better, and with the feedback provided by the details inside, the World Happiness Report can keep us all out of Dystopia.

RELATED: 6 Women's Health Conditions We Don't Talk About Enough

Kevin Lankes, MFA, is an editor and author. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Here Comes Everyone, Pigeon Pages, Owl Hollow Press, The Huffington Post, The Riverdale Press, and more.