Israel soars to 4th place in global happiness list, highest since ranking started

UN-sponsored index, based on data from 2020-2022, predates government’s divisive judicial overhaul plan; list is again topped by Finland, with US 15th, Britain 19th and France 21st

Israelis enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv on a hot winter day, January 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Israelis enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv on a hot winter day, January 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israelis are the happiest they’ve been in over a decade, the World Happiness rankings revealed on Monday, though the findings predated the widespread social upheaval over the government’s judicial overhaul program and therefore could not take it into account.

Israel’s 2023 fourth-place ranking, up from ninth last year, is its highest position since the UN-sponsored index began publication in 2012.

The list crowned Finland as the world’s happiest country for the sixth year running, with Afghanistan again the unhappiest, closely succeeded by Lebanon.

The World Happiness Report, now in its 11th year, is based on residents of 137 countries’ own assessment of their situation, 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 collected over a three-year period.

The survey utilized data collected between 2020 and 2022, before the government revealed its plans for judicial overhaul and the country became wracked by division and anger.

People walk on Jaffa street in downtown Jerusalem, on Sukkot eve, October 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Anat Fanti, a social science researcher at Bar Ilan University, said that if the survey had been conducted after the judicial overhaul was revealed, “its results would be different and Israel’s ranking would have been harmed.”

She told the Ynet news outlet that the ranking could be explained by a strong economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, as well as “the level of hope and optimism among some populations as a result of the broad unity government” led by former prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, though that government was despised by many in the right wing.

The latest edition of the index was the first to rank Russia and Ukraine since the outbreak of war in February 2022. In the 2023 report, Russia rose ten places to 70th, and Ukraine increased from 98th in 2022 to 92nd in 2023.

The United States improved by one place to 15th, while France dropped one spot to 21st. The Palestinian Authority was placed 99th.

As well as a personal sense of well-being, the happiness index takes account of GDP, social support, individual freedom and levels of corruption, measured through Gallup polls conducted in each country.

War-traumatized Afghanistan, already bottom of the table, has seen its humanitarian crisis deepen since the Taliban retook power in 2021.

A woman passes a city sign in Helsinki, Finland, Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Northern Europeans once again dominated the top spots — with the Finns, Danes and Icelanders forming the top three.

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.

AFP contributed to this report

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