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Finland leads the ranking of the world’s happiest countries for the sixth year in a row, according to the 2023 World Happiness Report released on Monday. While its score (7.80) is significantly ahead of all other countries, a sizeable chunk of the top ten roundup are also Scandinavian, with Denmark in second place (7.59), Iceland in third (7.53), Sweden in sixth (7.40) and Norway in seventh (7.32).
Slightly further down the ranking stand the United States in 15th place and the United Kingdom in 19th, with the latter having now dropped positions for four years in a row. At the bottom of the World Happiness Ranking are Zimbabwe (3.20), Sierra Leone (3.14), Lebanon (2.39) and Afghanistan (1.86).
Critics argue that the index is problematic for several reasons. For one, the terminology of “happiness” is disputed by some who would argue that in the case of Finland at least, “satisfaction with their lives” would have been a more accurate summary. In a 2018 paper on the topic, one Finnish writer pointed out that where Nordic countries came out on top for factors like GDP per capita and freedom from oppression, Latin American countries such as Paraguay and Guatemala would have been considered the happiest if the index was based on the amount of positive emotion people experience, while African countries including Togo and Senegal would have ranked higher when based on whether citizens experience their lives as “meaningful.”
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera’s political commentator Marwan Bishara questions a methodology that places Israel in the top ten countries despite the ongoing conflict, and Bahrain fairly high up the list despite “tight and political control.”
The 2023 World Happiness Ranking scores were determined using a three year average from 2020-22. Despite Covid, the war in Ukraine, hikes in energy prices and living costs, figures remained fairly similar to before the pandemic in many countries, with many citizens even reporting higher levels of acts of kindness.