Mapping: Levels of happiness in the world in 2022
What really makes people happy? While countless academic researchers have tried to get to the bottom of this, the truth is that it’s a complicated question to answer.
Happiness levels depend on a number of factors, including financial security, perceived social support, feelings of personal freedom, and more.
This map pulls data from the World Happiness Report to discover the average happiness scores of 146 countries. It shows the average scores from 2019 to 2021 and highlights which countries were the happiest – or the unhappiest – and why.
How is happiness measured?
Before we dive in, let’s briefly discuss how happiness levels are measured in this report. Some clear indicators are health and wealth, which are measured using key metrics such as GDP per capita and life expectancy rates.
The report also looks at more intangible aspects by collecting survey responses from each country, to assess things like:
- Freedom to make life choices
- Perceptions of government/corporate corruption
- Positive effect
- Negative effect
Like last year, the report takes special considerations to track the impact of COVID-19 on certain aspects of our daily lives and its impact on happiness levels around the world.
Editor’s note: Several countries covered in last year’s report were not included in this year’s dataset, including Haiti, the Maldives and Burundi.
Zoom In: Regional Happiness Levels
Global Happiness comes at an average score of 5.6, which represents a slight improvement since last year’s report. Below, we dive into each region’s happiness levels.
Current mood: Happy (6.3)
Like last year, Canada ranks first among the happiest countries in North America. However, he has lost ground in the world rankings, ranking 15th this year from 14th the previous year. In contrast, the United States moved up three places in this year’s report and ranked just behind Canada with a score of 6.97 (7.0 after rounding).
The Dominican Republic comes last in the region. While the Dominican Republic has experienced impressive economic growth over the past 25 years, the country has been hit hard by the global pandemic – in 2020, around 270,000 people fell into poverty and the economy is still struggling to reach its pre-pandemic levels.
Current Mood: Content (5.8)
Uruguay retains its top spot as the happiest country in South America. It continues to rank high on the list due to its high per capita income, relatively low poverty levels, and strong middle class.
Although Uruguay has not been immune to the impacts of COVID-19, the country has been able to smoothly transition to online learning and was the first country in the region to reopen schools.
In last year’s World Happiness Report, Colombia was the most improved country in the region. But this year it has fallen 14 places in the global rankings, making it the least improved country in this year’s report.
While Colombia has made significant progress towards elevating extreme poverty in recent decades, it still has one of the highest levels of income inequality in Latin America. In 2020, its 10% richest workers won more than 50% of the national income.
Current mood: Happy (6.5)
Finland is not only the happiest country in Europe, but also tops the list of the happiest countries in the world, for the fifth consecutive year. Finland is one of five Nordic countries to make the top 10. Denmark comes in second, followed by Iceland in third.
Romania has been the most improved country in Europe, climbing 18 places in the world rankings since last year’s report. Over the past decade, the country has experienced one of the strongest economic growths in the European Union and has been able to rebound quickly from its crisis caused by COVID-19.
Ukraine takes last place, making it the most unhappy country in Europe. Ukraine has seen ongoing challenges since the peak of the Maidan uprising in 2014. Events in the country worsened recently, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Following the conflict, more than 3 million people have fled the country.
Middle East and Central Asia
Current mood: It’s complicated (5.2)
Turkmenistan is the most improved country in the region, moving up 19 places in the global rankings since last year’s report. The country’s rise could be explained by its rapid economic growth in recent years. In 2021, the country’s GDP grew by around 6.3%.
For two years, Lebanon has faced a multitude of crises. In 2020, COVID-19 triggered an economic crisis that was ranked among the 10 most severe economic crises since the mid-19th century. And on August 4, 2020, a massive explosion of ammonium nitrate left the country’s capital, Beirut, in ruins.
East Asia and Oceania
Current Mood: Neutral (5.6)
Note: As the report only covers 146 countries, “Oceania” only refers to Australia and New Zealand in this case.
In this year’s report, China climbed 12 places in the global rankings, making it the most improved country in East Asia and Oceania. The Chinese government has recently identified “common prosperity” as a top priority and made numerous policy changes in an effort to tackle inequality and eradicate poverty.
On the other hand, Thailand has improved the least in the region, likely due to the heavy toll COVID-19 has had on the country’s economy. In 2020, economic growth declined by 6.1% in Thailand, the country’s worst contraction since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Thailand’s economy is not expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.
Current mood: Unhappy (4.5)
With a regional score of 4.5, Africa ranks as the most unhappy region in the world. Zimbabwe remains the most unfortunate country in the region as it continues to struggle with high levels of poverty. In 2021, around 6.1 million people were living below the international poverty line.
Mauritius remains the happiest country in the region, probably due to its relatively high income levels. It should be noted that Mauritius became a high income country in July 2020, but reverted to upper middle income status in 2021 due to the global pandemic.
We are entering our third year in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is clear that countries around the world are still reeling from the devastating health, social and economic impact of the pandemic. It’s unclear when things will fully return to normal, if ever. But on the positive side, countries are slowly showing signs of recovery.