The 2021 World Happiness Report revealed that Canada’s ranking fell from 10th to 15th over the past year in citizens’ evaluations of their life happiness.
Written by independent experts, the World Happiness Report is published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and informed by data from the Gallup World Poll and Lloyd’s Register Foundation who provide access to the World Risk Poll. This 2021 report includes life satisfaction data from the Imperial College London-YouGov Behaviour Tracker’s COVID Data Hub. The WHR report studies how people around the world are coping with the impacts of COVID-19 in their daily lives.
The evaluations took into consideration strength of social support networks, level of GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life changes, generosity, trust, perceptions of corruption, natural environment, unemployment, loneliness, social isolation and dystopia.
This report also stated that negative emotions (affect) had increased in 2020. Indicated by asking respondents whether they experienced sadness, worry or anger, the pandemic has taken a toll in 2020 as 42 countries showed significantly higher frequency of negative emotions. In 22 countries, positive emotions (happy, energetic, inspired, optimistic, content) increased, while they declined in 25 countries.
Citizens of Asia-Pacific countries were more successful at dealing with COVID-19 impacts in 2020. The differences between Asia and the West are measured with the number of deaths, the policies adopted to reduce transmission and the economic and social structure that were measured before the pandemic. Some of these structures include:
- The median age of the population: Countries with lower death rates have a younger population
- If the country is an island: All access to the island should be made by air or sea which facilitates the monitoring of the circulation of the virus
- Geographic Distance: Countries with few cases during the first wave and are not geographically close to the countries which had many cases tend to be faring better
- Experience with SARS: Countries which had previous experience with SARS (e.g. China, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore…) were able to more effectively adopt strategies to mitigate COVID-19
- If the country is led by a female leader: Female leaders have tended to prioritize policies that aim to reduce community transmission
The East Asian countries were affected negatively by the pandemic at the beginning (March 2020), but they have implemented Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) which helped stop the spread of COVID-19, such as:
- Tight border controls
- Quarantining of arriving passengers
- High rate of facemask use
- Physical distancing
- Increase of testing and surveillance systems
- Contact tracing
- Quarantining of infected people
Why were the Asia-Pacific countries more successful than the North Atlantic?
The difference between Asia and the North Atlantic countries’ efficacy in dealing with the pandemic is based on several factors:
- Covid-19 mortality rate: East Asian countries have lower death rates than the West because of the young population, comorbidities of the population and international travel
- Public support for NPIs: Asia-Pacific countries supported NPIs and trusted their leadership, which was not the case in the West
- Failure of the North Atlantic Region in learning from the Asia-Pacific countries: North-Atlantic countries were very slow in reacting to the pandemic
- Scientific knowledge and public behaviour: People in the North Atlantic region did not scientifically understand the pandemic and how dangerous it was
What should be done?
The WHR states countries need to focus on the well-being of their population. To do so, the report states they must focus on improving the experience of the living. The WELLBY approach (Well-Being-Adjusted Life-Years) evaluates countries based upon how long their citizens live and to what extent these lives are full of well-being. This method may become the standard policy evaluation method used by many countries in less than 20 years.
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