It has been a tough year to say the least – ‘unprecedented’ seemed to be the global consensus for a year plagued with anxiety, isolation, and disconnection. In New Zealand, we not only had to navigate the Coronavirus and the new uncertain reality it brought – lockdowns, home-working and home-schooling, social bubbles, and mask-wearing – but we were also recovering from the Christchurch Mosque attacks and the White Island eruption.
Yet despite these challenges, New Zealand has been ranked the ninth happiest country in the world according to the 2021 World Happiness Report. In fact, New Zealand was the only non-European country listed in the top 10 – and most importantly, three spots above our friends across the ditch.
The report, which is produced by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network annually, focused particularly on the quality of people’s lives during the pandemic and evaluated how governments responded to COVID-19. Several aspects were considered, including economic factors, healthy life expectancy and the opinions of residents.
So, what is it about New Zealand that made its residents so content during the pandemic? Trust was shown to be the key factor linking happiness and COVID-19 and the report found Kiwis to have high levels of trust in both its institutions and fellow citizens. New Zealand’s buy in to the Government’s ‘hard and early’ approach resulted in one of the lowest global fatality rates and a significantly shorter lockdown period. Countries with female leaders were also shown to successfully manage the pandemic.
While mental health across populations declined globally, surprisingly the report also showed that there was little change in happiness levels compared to the previous year. Factors that helped people cope during this period included owning a pet (dogs were especially good at alleviating loneliness), exercising, volunteering and staying connected with friends and whānau.
Finland was named the happiest country for the fourth year in a row. Its approach to the pandemic helped the country to remain financially stable while providing residents with greater certainty about work hours. Finland also rates the highest in the world for its population living well into old age.
The top 10 countries happiest countries according to the 2021 World Happiness Report are:
- New Zealand
To read the full 2021 World Happiness Report, visit worldhappiness.report/ed/2021/