Viewing archives for Prof. John Helliwell

Prof. John Helliwell

Economics, University of British Columbia

The Finnish Secret to Happiness? Knowing When You Have Enough

The New York Times

Frank Martela, a psychology researcher at Aalto University, agreed with Ms. Paasimaki’s assessment. “The fact that Finland has been ‘the happiest country on earth’ for six years in a row could start building pressure on people,” he wrote in an email. “If we Finns are all so happy, why am I not happy?”

He continued, “In that sense, dropping to be the second-happiest country could be good for the long-term happiness of Finland.”

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These are the world’s 10 happiest countries in 2023 (and most of them are in Europe)


The enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the war in Ukraine, and worldwide inflation made 2022 a year of global crises.

But the human resolve to be happy has been “remarkably resilient,” says the 2023 World Happiness Report, which recorded global satisfaction averages as high as those in the pre-pandemic years.

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Finland remains world’s happiest country on International Day of Happiness

CBS News

Another author of the report, professor John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia, said that the average level of happiness around the world has been remarkably stable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” Helliwell said.

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Policy Stringency and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Longitudinal Analysis of Data From 15 Countries

Lara B Aknin, Bernardo Andretti, Rafael Goldszmidt, Prof John F Helliwell, Anna Petherick, Prof Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Prof Elizabeth W Dunn, Daisy Fancourt, Prof Elkhonon Goldberg, Sarah P Jones, Ozge Karadag, Elie Karam, Prof Richard Layard, Prof Shekhar Saxena, Emily Thornton, Ashley Whillans, Jamil Zaki

To date, public health policies implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic have been evaluated on the basis of their ability to reduce transmission and minimise economic harm. We aimed to assess the association between COVID-19 policy restrictions and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this longitudinal analysis, we combined daily policy stringency data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker with psychological distress scores and life evaluations captured in the Imperial College London-YouGov COVID-19 Behaviour Tracker Global Survey in fortnightly cross-sections from samples of 15 countries between April 27, 2020, and June 28, 2021. The mental health questions provided a sample size of 432 642 valid responses, with an average of 14 918 responses every 2 weeks. To investigate how policy stringency was associated with mental health, we considered two potential mediators: observed physical distancing and perceptions of the government’s handling of the pandemic. Countries were grouped on the basis of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic as those pursuing an elimination strategy (countries that aimed to eliminate community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within their borders) or those pursuing a mitigation strategy (countries that aimed to control SARS-CoV-2 transmission). Using a combined dataset of country-level and individual-level data, we estimated linear regression models with country-fixed effects (ie, dummy variables representing the countries in our sample) and with individual and contextual covariates. Additionally, we analysed data from a sample of Nordic countries, to compare Sweden (that pursued a mitigation strategy) to other Nordic countries (that adopted a near-elimination strategy).

Controlling for individual and contextual variables, higher policy stringency was associated with higher mean psychological distress scores and lower life evaluations (standardised coefficients β=0·014 [95% CI 0·005 to 0·023] for psychological distress; β=–0·010 [–0·015 to –0·004] for life evaluation). Pandemic intensity (number of deaths per 100 000 inhabitants) was also associated with higher mean psychological distress scores and lower life evaluations (standardised coefficients β=0·016 [0·008 to 0·025] for psychological distress; β=–0·010 [–0·017 to –0·004] for life evaluation). The negative association between policy stringency and mental health was mediated by observed physical distancing and perceptions of the government’s handling of the pandemic. We observed that countries pursuing an elimination strategy used different policy timings and intensities compared with countries pursuing a mitigation strategy. The containment policies of countries pursuing elimination strategies were on average less stringent, and fewer deaths were observed.

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Finland Named World’s Happiest Country for Fifth Year Running

The Guardian

Finland has been named the world’s happiest country for the fifth year in a row, in an annual UN-sponsored index that ranked Afghanistan as the unhappiest, closely followed by Lebanon.

The latest list was completed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia recorded the biggest boosts in wellbeing. The largest falls in the world happiness table, released on Friday, came in Lebanon, Venezuela and Afghanistan. Lebanon, which is facing economic meltdown, fell to second from last on the index of 146 countries, just below Zimbabwe. War-scarred Afghanistan, already bottom of the table last year, saw its humanitarian crisis deepen since the Taliban returned to power last August following the pull-out of US-led troops.

“This [index] presents a stark reminder of the material and immaterial damage that war does to its many victims,” co-author Jan-Emmanuel De Neve said.

The world happiness report, now in its 10th year, is based on people’s own assessment of their happiness, as well as economic and social data. It assigns a happiness score on a scale of zero to 10, based on an average of data over three years.

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Mental Health During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Review and Recommendations for Moving Forward

Lara Aknin, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Elizabeth Dunn, Daisy Fancourt, Elkhonon Goldberg, John Helliwell, Sarah P. Jones, Elie Karam, Richard Layard, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Andrew Rzepa, Shekhar Saxena, Emily Thornton, Tyler VanderWeele, Ashley Whillans Jamil Zaki, Ozge Karadag Caman, & Yanis Ben Amour

COVID-19 has infected millions of people and upended the lives of most humans on the planet. Researchers from across the psychological sciences have sought to document and investigate the impact of COVID-19 in myriad ways, causing an explosion of research that is broad in scope, varied in methods, and challenging to consolidate. Because policy and practice aimed at helping people live healthier and happier lives requires insight from robust patterns of evidence, this paper provides a rapid and thorough summary of high-quality studies published in 2020 addressing two overarching questions…

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Green Book Supplementary Guidance: Wellbeing


Supplementary guidance to the Green Book covering the consideration of wellbeing as part of the Green Book methodology.

This policy paper draws on a number of recent publications by the Wellbeing Research Centre, including our paper on the wellbeing years approach to policy choice in the British Medical Journal, and the World Happiness Report.

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What Makes a Happy Country?

New York Times

When governments around the world introduced coronavirus restrictions requiring people to stand two meters apart, jokes in Finland started circulating: “Why can’t we stick to the usual four meters?”

Finns embrace depictions of themselves as melancholic and reserved — a people who mastered social distancing long before the pandemic. A popular local saying goes, “Happiness will always end in tears.”

But for four consecutive years, Finland has been named the happiest country in the world by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which publishes an annual report evaluating the happiness of people around the world.

The latest report, published last month, has led some Finns to ask: Really?

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3 Hidden Insights From This Year’s World Happiness Report


Each year, the World Happiness Report provides a comprehensive ranking of the happiest countries in the world. For the fourth year in a row, Finland earned the ranking as the world’s happiest country, with Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands not far behind.

While there is much to be gained from the country-by-country comparisons, another way to read the report is to look for the hidden nuggets of insight that we can use to become happier in our own lives. Here are three subtle yet actionable insights from this year’s report that should not be overlooked…

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