Happy Lithuanians

© Tautvydas Stukas photography

March 20 was the International Day of Happiness, a day designated by the United Nations that marked its 10th anniversary in 2023. according to the World Happiness Report published on that day, Finland has been named the happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row. Now Lithuania has made it to the top 20 for the first time.

The report is compiled annually based on surveys conducted by the Gallup Institute. This year, the happiest – Finns – are followed by Denmark, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand. Lithuania, ranked 20th, reached this category for the first time, pushing France to 21st place. The Baltic country has steadily risen from 52nd place in 2017. Estonia (ranked 31st) and Latvia (41st) are also climbing up the list. “It’s essentially the same story that’s playing out in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe,” John Helliwell, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report, told CNN. Countries in these regions “probably have normalized after the post-1990 transition and are feeling more solid in their new identity”.

According to researchers, people’s happiness ratings have remained resilient despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with global averages for 2020-2022 as high as they were before the pandemic in 2017-2019. The report, which is a publication of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, draws on global survey data from people in more than 150 countries. Countries are ranked on happiness based on their average life evaluations over the three preceding years.

Lebanon and war-torn Afghanistan remain the two unhappiest countries, according to the latest survey. Eleventh to 19th are Austria, Australia, Canada, Ireland, United States, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom.

At the very bottom of the happiness list is Afghanistan at No. 137. Lebanon is one rank above at No. 136. Average life evaluations in these countries are more than five points lower (on a scale from 0 to 10) than in the 10 happiest countries. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put both of these countries very much in the global spotlight as the 2022 report was released. Well-being in Ukraine has definitely taken a hit, but according to the report “despite the magnitude of suffering and damage in Ukraine, life evaluations in September 2022 remained higher than in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation, supported now by a stronger sense of common purpose, benevolence, and trust in Ukrainian leadership. Confidence in their governments grew in both countries in 2022, the survey says, “but much more in Ukraine than in Russia.” Ukrainian support for the leadership in Russia fell to zero. In this year’s rankings, Russia is No. 70 and Ukraine is No. 92.

John Helliwell, one of the authors of the World Happiness Report, professor emeritus at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia, says the disruptions of the pandemic have spurred a lot of reflection, and people are rethinking their life objectives. In an interview with CNN, he expressed the hope that the “move towards thinking about values and other people more explicitly” will affect not just factors such as which jobs or schools people choose, but also how they operate within those environments. “…it’s about cooperating with other people in a useful way. …you do end up feeling better about yourself if you’re actually looking after other people rather than number one.”