For the fourth year in a row, Finland has been crowned the world's happiest country. According to the World Happiness Report 2021, released by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network; Saudi Arabia emerged tops in the Arab world a global ranking of 21.
The United Arab Emirates is in second place in the Arab world in the happiness index for the year 2021 with a 27th position globally; while Bahrain came third in the Arab world placing 35th globally; among 149 countries around the world.
The release of the report coincides with the United Nation's annual International Day of Happiness that falls on March 20. Nine out of the top 10 happiest countries are from Europe with Denmark coming in second after Finland, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg and Austria; while New Zealand is the lone non-European country to place among the top 10, picking up the 9th position.
The United States of America shot up to No. 14, up four spots, when it ranked 18 in 2020, while Canada slipped to No. 15 this year. The United Kingdom slipped five spots from 2020, coming in at No. 18, while Germany is at 17, up 10 spots.
There were similar success rates in Australia, which ranked No. 12. Belgium ranked 20th, while Spain and Italy ranked 27th and 28th respectively.
China, one of the countries that had a challenging time last year; made the top 20 in 2021, coming in at No. 19. It was a dramatic leap from last year, when China was at 94. Another big leap was Croatia, which rose to 23 on the list this year, up from No. 79 in 2020.
As for the unhappiest countries in the world, Afghanistan led it with 2.52 points, followed by Zimbabwe; Rwanda, Botswana and Lesotho. India ranked the worst among the major countries of the world with the 139th position.
Launched in 2012, the annual survey, ranks global happiness in countries around the world. Typically, the statisticians base the ranking on data from the Gallup World Poll. But this year was a bit different. Since the researchers were unable to do face-to-face interviews in a number of countries, they focused on the relationship between well-being and COVID-19 in order to rank the countries.
It comes as no surprise as Finland once again takes the top spot as the happiest country in the world. It has always ranked very high on the measures of mutual trust that have helped to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic. The rankings overall remained very similar to last year.
A total of 22 countries advanced on the happiness index. "Surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people's own evaluation of their lives;" said University of British Columbia Professor John Helliwell, one of the authors behind the survey.
The report marks a somber moment as COVID-19 continues to rage on a little more than a year; since it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. More than two million people have died worldwide and the threat of variants and uneven policy decisions on how to respond has created uncertainty in what the future holds.
But despite this, there is hope that the end game is in sight, as vaccine rollout steadily increases while many continue to adhere to mask mandates and physical distancing.
This year's Happiness Report faced with a unique challenge in trying to understand what effect the pandemic has had on subjective well-being and vice versa. Of all the factors usually supporting happiness; the most important for explaining COVID-19 death rates were people's trust in each other, and confidence in their governments.
Among the fields on which the report focused on are measuring the impact of the pandemic on the work environment, social relations quality, individuals' mental health, confidence in government procedures and the country's ability to overcome the repercussions of the pandemic. It also measures the unemployment rates due to the pandemic; the inequality and the spread of loneliness, as all these factors affect the happiness index.
Saudi Arabia achieved distinguished results in indicators of GDP; social support, average life expectancy, freedom to make life decisions, generosity and confronting corruption.
The Executive Director of the Implementation Support Sector and Acting Head of Marketing and Communication at the Center of Quality of Life Program Khaled Bin Abdullah Al-Bakr, affirmed that Saudi Arabia's progress in the World Happiness Report for 2021 comes as a result of the leadership's interest in the quality of life and the happiness and well-being of citizens and residents, especially in light of the pandemic.
He added that Saudi Arabia exerted exceptional efforts to confront the repercussions of the pandemic. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman ordered to provide free treatment and vaccines for the coronavirus; for all citizens, residents, and violators of residency regulation. Moreover, the government reduced the negative repercussions of the pandemic on the private sector, through numerous support packages and initiatives.
The pandemic has negatively affected the quality of life in all countries; but Saudi Arabia was able to adapt to the repercussions of the pandemic and continue to develop and improve the various sectors of quality of life while implementing the precautionary measures. For instance, the tourism sector has succeeded in activating its plans and strategies and adapting them to the pandemic, which made a qualitative leap in the sector.
This adaptation also applies to sports, cultural, entertainment and other sectors related to the quality of life, in addition to hosting and holding international and local events. The quality-of-life sectors in Saudi Arabia have continued to work and find alternatives to achieve their goals despite the pandemic, Al-Bakr added.
He pointed out that Saudi Arabia's steady progress in the World Happiness Report over the past years; comes as a confirmation of the success of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 strategy, under the supervision and leadership of Crown Prince, especially in sectors related to quality of life, as the Quality of Life Program adopts the World Happiness Report as one of its reference indicators.