New Survey Reveals the Pandemic’s Unexpected Impact on Global Happiness

The World Happiness Report has weighed in

COVID vaccines
How happy are you relative to this time in 2019?
Vachira Vachira/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It’s now been three years since cities and states within the U.S. began experiencing large-scale shutdowns due to concerns over COVID-19. (And yes, that is an unsettling sentence to type. Three years! It simultaneously feels like six months and 10 years.) And with that time comes perspective — including looking back on how the pandemic impacted happiness around the world. Here’s a hint: it definitely did — but maybe not in the way you’d expect.

That’s one of the big takeaways from an article in The Guardian on the results of a new report that offers insight into COVID-19 and its aftermath. Specifically, it’s the 10th edition of the World Happiness Report, which continues its exploration into well-being around the world.

Among the most interesting pieces of data from this year’s report? The pandemic’s lack of a noticeable effect on what the report measures. “Life evaluations have continued to be remarkably resilient, with global averages in the COVID-19 years 2020-2022 just as high as those in the pre-pandemic years 2017-2019,” the study’s authors write.

The study’s authors point to several contributing factors into this unexpected result. One of them is the way that different countries opted to manage the pandemic. “In 2020 and 2021, countries attempting to suppress community transmission had lower death rates and better well-being overall,” the authors note. The study also points to feelings of benevolence and altruism as playing a part in global happiness — which also lines up with the pandemic and many people’s response to it.

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The Guardian‘s report also notes that measuring happiness on a global scale can include some interesting variations within the data. The Guardian‘s Robert Booth writes that “[t]hings were slightly worse in western countries and slightly better in the rest of the world” — which also helps square the World Happiness Report’s global data with some of the nuances of individual nations’ pandemic experiences. Still, it points to a more interestingly nuanced portrait of the last few years — and some of the surprises it could have in store when revisited.

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