This is what makes people around the world happy right now

COVID-19 mental health happiness safety security well-being
There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing.
Image: Unsplash/Radu Florin
  • Six in 10 adults across 27 countries are happy despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Ipsos survey.
  • 55% said health and physical well-being were key to their happiness.
  • Aggregate happiness levels are largely unchanged from the previous year.
  • China is the happiest of the 27 countries surveyed.

Just over six in 10 (63%) adults across 27 countries are happy despite the coronavirus pandemic, with more than half of those polled saying they derived their greatest happiness from their health.

These are the results of Ipsos’ Global Happiness Survey 2020 which, perhaps surprisingly given the events of 2020, show that happiness at an aggregate level is largely unchanged from 2019 – when 64% said they were happy.

In a year that public health has been at the forefront of people’s minds across the globe, 55% of respondents said their greatest happiness came from their health and physical well-being.

Family also comes out top

Meanwhile, some 49% cited their relationship with their partner or spouse as a source of greatest happiness, with the same percentage saying it derived from their children.

Feeling their life had meaning was also considered important, with 48% citing it as a key reason, while 45% pointed to their living conditions.

Forty-five per cent of those surveyed also said their personal safety and security was a big contributor to their happiness levels, closely followed by 43% stating that feeling in control of their lives was very important.

Rounding off the top 10 sources of happiness were having a meaningful job/employment (43%), satisfaction in the direction their life is going (40%) and having more money (also 40%).

Priorities in the COVID era

The sources of happiness that gained more prominence this year, compared with 2019, all related to relationships, health, and safety, according to Ipsos – perhaps reflecting key concerns for millions during the COVID-19 crisis.

Forgiving someone for something they did, personal safety and security, health and physical well-being, and finding someone to be with, all recorded an increase of four points on 2019.

By comparison, new political leadership in participants’ respective countries saw a decrease of three points as a source of either some or the greatest happiness.

Regional variations

China is the happiest country of the 27 surveyed by Ipsos, with 93% of people saying they were happy – up 11 points from third position last year. The newly-added Netherlands came second, with 87%, followed by Saudi Arabia, up two points at 80%.

However, last year’s leaders Canada and Australia both saw a notable drop down the leadership board. Canada dropped eight points into fourth place with 78% – in a tie with France, which fell two points – while Australia came sixth with 77% after a fall of nine points.

The least happy country surveyed was Peru, down 26 points to 32%, which sat bottom of this year’s chart. Above it was Chile, with just over a third (35%) saying they were happy and then Spain, where 38% were content with their lot.

The countries which showed the biggest decline of happiness included Peru, Chile (down 15 points) and Mexico, which saw a drop of 13 points to 46%.

Happiness global countries
The happiest countries in the survey.
Image: Ipsos

Over one in 10 say they’re ‘very happy’

Some 11% of those polled across all 27 countries said they were very happy, while more than half (52%) said they were rather happy.

At the other end of the scale, 31% said they were not very happy and 6% said they were not happy at all.

Saudi Arabia saw the highest incidence of adults considering themselves very happy at 30%, followed by India at 22% and the Netherlands at 20%.

Meanwhile, Spain reported the most adults saying they were not happy at all with 13%, followed by Chile and Argentina with 12%, and Hungary at 11%.

Global happiness levels have declined

The percentage of people saying they were happy has dropped by 14 points globally since 2011, according to Ipsos. It is down five points or more in 17 of the countries surveyed both then and in 2020.

China is the only country to show a significant increase since 2011, with a rise of more than 15 points.

The findings are the results of an Ipsos survey of 19,516 adults in 27 countries carried out between 24 July and 7 August.

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