World Happiness Report 2021

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network has released the World Happiness Report 2021.  While it is their ninth World Happiness Report, this piece is unlike any other due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world.  Using the Gallup World Poll as the foundation, this report examines how COVID-19 has affected people’s mental health, working conditions, social connections, and trust in others.  Unsurprisingly, there was an overall increase in stress, worry, and sadness, but noteworthily there was also an increase in people who reported feeling well-rested, an “increase in the number of people who did something interesting yesterday,” and a “significant drop in the reported frequency of health problems.”  The United States has seen a slight increase in its happiness ranking, while countries like Norway and Canada have seen decreases.  Using the WELLBY (Well-Being-Year) approach, the report further takes into consideration how long people live in order to “judge a society by the extent to which it enables people to experience lives that are long and full of well-being.”

Two special sections of the report analyze how the Asia-Pacific area has had more success in suppressing COVID-19, and reveal lessons the rest of the world can learn from those countries, notably their use of “Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs), including tight border controls; quarantining of arriving passengers; high rates of face-mask use; physical distancing; and public health surveillance systems engaged in widespread testing, contact tracing, and quarantining (or home isolation) of infected individuals.”  This report provides important insight into why some countries have done so much better than others not just at dealing with the pandemic, but with overall resiliency and its effect on people’s happiness.


For more information on topics related to this piece, check out the COVID-19 Special Collection, or visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Pandemics and Epidemics.

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