According to a study of over 100,000 people in 137 countries, people rated their quality of life as high between 2020-2022, as they did in the two years before the pandemic.
The polling, conducted by Gallup and published in the annual World Happiness Report, asked respondents to rate their lives on a scale of one to 10. Respondents gave just as high scores before and after the crisis.
The study also found that global measures of “misery” fell and that those aged over 60 on average reported improvements in their happiness relative to younger groups.
People also reported positive emotions – laughter, enjoyment and interest – twice as frequently as they reported negative emotions of worry, sadness and anger during the pandemic.
“It’s amazing,” said John Helliwell, a professor of economics at the University of British Columbia and a co-editor of the report.
“People ended up discovering their neighbours. People were checking in more regularly [with other generations] so that sense of isolation was not as much as you would expect … Even during these difficult years, positive emotions have remained twice as prevalent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support twice as strong as those of loneliness.”
However, the report noted that “it it is important to remember that some of those most affected by Covid-19, including the homeless and the institutionalised, are not included in the survey samples.”
The research comes after a British Medical Journal (BMJ) review found that people’s general mental health symptoms hardly deteriorated during the pandemic.
However, a study published in The Lancet last week suggested that people who experienced severe Covid-19 symptoms are more likely to have long-term mental health problems.
Meanwhile, the new polling found that GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and freedom from corruption were the main drivers of happiness.
It found that Finland came top of the overall happiness league table for the sixth year running while Denmark came second and Iceland third. The UK dropped down to 19th place and Afghanistan came last.
“The ultimate goal of politics and ethics should be human wellbeing,” said Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University professor who co-authored the report.
“The happiness movement shows that wellbeing is not a soft and vague idea but rather focuses on areas of life of critical importance: material conditions, mental and physical wealth, personal virtues, and good citizenship. We need to turn this wisdom into practical results to achieve more peace, prosperity, trust, civility – and yes, happiness – in our societies.”