This country is the happiest in the world, even during COVID-19

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Despite the challenges and uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic over the last year, Finland has maintained its status as the happiest country in the world.

That’s according to the 2021 World Happiness Report, which was released on Friday. Among the top 10 happiest countries, nine were European. 

Following Finland, in order, were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Austria, the report found.

“We find year after year that life satisfaction is reported to be happiest in the social democracies of northern Europe,” report co-author Jeffrey Sachs told The Associated Press. “People feel secure in those countries, so trust is high. The government is seen to be credible and honest, and trust in each other is high.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. came in at 19th place, down one spot from last year.

The annual report is produced by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network and ranks 149 countries based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy and the opinions of residents. 

It also surveys respondents, asking them to indicate on a 1-10 scale how much social support they feel they have if something goes wrong, their freedom to make their own life choices, their sense of how corrupt their society is and how generous they are.

The report typically includes data from the previous three years of surveys to “increase the sample size and keep the confidence bounds smaller,” a press release said. 

However, this year, analysts also made a separate list of happiest countries based solely on results from 2020 to see how countries were faring during the pandemic, separate from past years.

Finland also took the top spot on that list, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, German, Norway, New Zealand and Austria.

According to the press release, the report’s authors found that the most important factors for happiness were “people’s trust in each other and confidence in their government.”

“We need urgently to learn from Covid-19,” Sachs said in a statement. “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,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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