Mapped: Global Happiness Levels in 2022
What really makes people happy? While countless academic researchers have tried to get to the bottom of this, the truth is, it’s a complicated question to answer.
Happiness levels depend on a number of factors, including one’s financial security, perceptions of social support, feelings of personal freedom, and much more.
This map pulls data from the World Happiness Report to uncover the average happiness scores of 146 countries. It shows average scores from 2019 to 2021, and highlights which countries are the happiest—or unhappiest—and why.
How is Happiness Measured?
Before diving in, let’s briefly touch on how happiness levels are measured in this report.
The numbers shown represent the survey data from thousands of respondents for each country, who are asked to rate their subjective well-being (happiness score) using the Cantril life ladder question. For more information on the methodology of this and technical notes, go here.
The report also does a regression analysis to look at how happiness scores could be explained, by looking at tangible and intangible factors that could factor in:
- Social support
- Life expectancy
- Freedom to make life choices
- GDP per capita
- Perceptions of corruption
- Positive and negative affects
Similar to last year, the report takes special considerations to track how COVID-19 has impacted aspects of our daily lives, and how it’s affected global happiness levels.
Editor’s note: there are several countries covered in last year’s report that were not included in this year’s dataset, including Haiti, Maldives, and Burundi.
Zooming in: Regional Happiness Levels
Worldwide happiness comes in at an average score of 5.6, which is a slight improvement since last year’s report. Below, we dive into each region’s happiness levels.
Current Mood: Happy (6.3)
Like last year, Canada ranks first as the happiest country in North America. However, it’s lost some ground on the global ranking, placing 15th this year compared to 14th the year prior. In contrast, the U.S. climbed three places in this year’s report and ranked just under Canada with a score of 6.97 (7.0 after rounding).
The Dominican Republic comes in last place in the region. While the Dominican Republic has experienced impressive economic growth over the last 25 years, the country was hit hard by the global pandemic—in 2020, approximately 270,000 people fell into poverty, and the economy is still struggling to reach its pre-pandemic levels.
Current Mood: Content (5.8)
Uruguay retains its top spot as the happiest country in South America. It continues to rank high on the list because of its high income per capita, relatively low levels of poverty, and strong middle class.
While Uruguay was not immune to the impacts of COVID-19, the country was able to transition smoothly to online learning and was the first country in the region to reopen schools.
In last year’s World Happiness Report, Colombia was the most improved country in the region. But this year, it’s dropped 14 places on the global ranking, making it the least improved country in this year’s report.
While Colombia has made significant strides towards elevating extreme poverty in the last few decades, it still has one of the highest levels of income inequality in Latin America. In 2020, its top 10% of workers took home more than 50% of national income.
Current Mood: Happy (6.5)
Finland is not only the happiest country in Europe, but it also takes the top spot as the happiest country in the world, for the fifth year in a row. Finland is one of five Nordic countries to place in the top 10. Denmark comes in second place, followed by Iceland in third.
Romania was the most improved country in Europe, climbing 18 spots on the global ranking since last year’s report. Over the last decade, the country has seen some of the most significant economic growth in the European Union and was able to bounce back quickly from its COVID-19- triggered slump.
Ukraine ranks in last place, making it the unhappiest country in Europe. Ukraine has experienced ongoing challenges since the Maidan Uprising peaked in 2014. Events in the country have recently taken a turn for the worse, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. As a result of the conflict, over 3 million people have fled the country.
Middle East and Central Asia
Current Mood: It’s Complicated (5.2)
Turkmenistan is the most improved country in the region, rising 19 places on the global ranking since last year’s report. The country’s boost could be explained by its rapid economic growth in recent years. In 2021, the country’s GDP grew by an estimated 6.3%.
For the last two years, Lebanon has been dealing with a slew of crises. In 2020, COVID-19 spurred an economic crisis that’s been ranked as one of the top 10 most severe economic crises since the mid-nineteenth century. And on August 4th, 2020, a massive ammonium nitrate explosion left the country’s capital city, Beirut, in shambles.
East Asia and Oceania
Current Mood: Neutral (5.6)
Note: As the report only covers 146 countries, “Oceania” only refers to Australia and New Zealand in this instance.
In this year’s report, China climbed 12 places on the global ranking, making it the most improved country in East Asia and Oceania. The Chinese government recently identified “common prosperity” as a top priority, and has made numerous policy shifts in an effort to combat inequality and eradicate poverty.
On the flipside, Thailand has improved the least in the region, likely because of the significant toll that COVID-19 had on the country’s economy. In 2020, economic growth shrunk by 6.1% in Thailand—the country’s worst contraction since the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. Thailand’s economy is not expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.
Current Mood: Unhappy (4.5)
With a regional score of 4.5, Africa ranks as the unhappiest region worldwide. Zimbabwe remains the most unhappy country in the region, as it continues to struggle with high levels of poverty. In 2021, approximately 6.1 million people were living below the international poverty line.
Mauritius remains the happiest country in the region, likely because of its relatively high levels of income. It’s worth noting that Mauritius became a High-Income country in July 2020, but slipped back to its Upper-Middle-Income status in 2021 because of the global pandemic.
We’re into our third year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s clear that countries worldwide are still reeling from the pandemic’s devastating health, social, and economic impact. It’s unclear when things will fully return to normal—if ever. But on the bright side, countries are slowly showing signs of recovery.
Editor’s note: We’ve adjusted the “How is Happiness Measured” portion of this article to better reflect the methodology used in the World Happiness Report
Mapping the World’s Forests: How Green is Our Globe?
Where are the world’s forests? These high-resolution maps show how the world’s carbon-sequestering forests are spread.
Mapping the World’s Forests: How Green is our Globe?
More than half of this green cover is spread across the boreal forests of Russia and Canada, the Amazon in South America, and China’s coniferous and broad-leaved forests. These carbon-sequestering forests purify the air, filter water, prevent soil erosion, and act as an important buffer against climate change.
|Rank||Country||Forest Cover (in millions of hectares)|
|#4||🇺🇸 United States||310|
|#7||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo||126|
This series of maps by Adam Symington uses data sourced from images collected aboard the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite to reflect the ratio of the world’s surface covered with tree canopy to non-green areas.
To explore the entire high resolution forest map, click the image above. Below we’ll take a closer look at some of the world’s green zones.
Home to the boreal forests of Russia, China’s broad-leaved forests, the mangrove forests of Indonesia, and the green belt along the mighty Himalayas, Asia boasts some of the richest and most biodiverse green canopies of the world.
Russia holds more than one-fifth of the world’s trees across 815 million hectares—larger than the Amazon’s canopy. Like the country’s geography, most of Russia’s forests are situated in Asia, but spread into Europe as well.
To the southeast and with a forest cover of almost 220 million hectares, China is the fifth greenest country in the world. However, this was not always the case.
In 1990, China’s forests stretched across only 157 million hectares, covering 16.7% of its land. By the end of 2020, this forest cover reached 23.4%, thanks to decades of greening efforts.
On the other hand, the continent’s third most biodiverse country—Indonesia—is losing its green canopy. With a 92 million hectare-wide forest canopy, the country is home to between 10 and 15% of the world’s known plants, mammals, and birds. Unfortunately, over the past 50 years, 74 million hectares of the country’s rainforest have been logged, burned, or degraded.
Meanwhile, the 72 million hectares of Indian forest cover can be followed closely with the eye. From the rainforests along the Himalayas in the northeast, to montane rainforests of the South Western Ghats, and finally to the coastal mangrove forests.
The Amazon and Congolian Rainforests
In South America, Brazil has the second-largest green cover in the world.
Most of its 497 million hectare-wide forest cover falls within “the lungs of the planet”—the Amazon rainforest.
One of the most biodiverse places on the planet, the Amazon rainforest is said to house about 10% of the world’s biodiversity, including over three million wildlife species and over 2,500 tree species.
On the other side of the Atlantic, extending along the Congo River basin and its many tributaries, are the Congolian rainforests.
Spread across nine countries in Central Africa, this collection of tropical moist broadleaf forests is one of the remaining regions in the world that absorbs more carbon than it emits.
With 126 million hectares of the world’s green cover, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) contains the largest part of this rainforest, equal to about 60% of Central Africa’s lowland forest cover.
North American Forests
Canada, the United States, and Mexico combine for 723 million hectares of the world’s forests. The vast stretches of pine and fir trees in the Great White North, coupled with the United States’ mixed variety of forests, make the continent one of the largest carbon sinks in the world.
With over 347 million hectares of forests, Canada ranks third in the list of greenest countries. Approximately 40% of its landmass is tree-covered, representing 9% of the global forest cover.
Its boreal forests store twice as much carbon per unit as tropical forests and help regulate the global carbon footprint.
The United States, on the other hand, holds about 8% of the world’s forests. Spread across 310 million hectares of land, these diverse forests range from the boreal forests of Alaska to pine plantations in the South, and the deciduous forests in the Eastern United States to the dry coniferous forests in the West. The country is also home to temperate rainforests along its West Coast and tropical rainforests in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.
The World’s Lost Forests
While China and a few select countries have proven that there is hope for building out the world’s forests, the story is different in other places around the world. This map by Adam Symington uses data from the University of Maryland to track the changes in the world’s forest cover from 2000 to 2021.
Since 2000, the world lost over 104 million hectares of pristine and intact forest landscapes. In 2020 alone, over 10 thousand square kilometers of the Amazon were destroyed for the development of roads.
Deforestation and fragmentation are caused by a range of human development activities. But they are also exacerbated by climate change, with increasing forest fires, hurricanes, droughts, and other extreme weather events, as well as invasive species and insect outbreaks upsetting forest ecosystems.
At the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) held in Montréal, nations across the world committed to the 30X30 plan, which called for the conservation of the world’s land and marine ecosystems by 2030. Alongside other commitments to end deforestation and grow the world’s canopies, there is still hope for the world’s forests.
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