Israel has climbed three spots to ninth, its highest-ever placing, in the annual UN-sponsored World Happiness index. It came in 12th last year, up from 14th in 2020.
Published Friday, the list names Finland as the world’s happiest country for the fifth year running, with Afghanistan again the unhappiest, followed closely by Lebanon.
The World Happiness Report, now in its 10th year, is based on people’s own assessment of their happiness, as well as economic and social data.
It assigns a happiness score on a scale of zero to 10, based on an average of data over a three-year period.
This latest edition was completed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It ranked Russia in 80th place and Ukraine in 98th.
The United States rose three places to 16th, one ahead of Britain, while France climbed to 20th, its highest ranking yet. The Palestinian Authority was placed 122nd.
As well as a personal sense of well-being, based on Gallup polls in each country, the happiness score takes account of GDP, social support, personal freedom and levels of corruption.
Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania recorded the biggest boosts in well-being.
Lebanon, which is facing economic meltdown, fell to second from last on the index of 146 nations, just below Zimbabwe.
War-traumatized Afghanistan, already bottom of the table, has seen its humanitarian crisis deepen since the Taliban took power again last August.
United Nations agency UNICEF estimates one million children under five could die of hunger this winter if not aided. “This (index) presents a stark reminder of the material and immaterial damage that war does to its many victims,” co-author Jan-Emmanuel De Neve says.
Northern Europeans once again dominate the top spots — with the Danes second behind the Finns, followed by the Icelandic, the Swiss and the Dutch.
The report raised some eyebrows when it first placed Finland at the top of its listings in 2018.
Many of the Nordic country’s 5.5 million people describe themselves as taciturn and prone to melancholy, and admit to eyeing public displays of joyfulness with suspicion.
But the country of vast forests and lakes is also known for its well-functioning public services, ubiquitous saunas, widespread trust in authority and low levels of crime and inequality.