Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Canada ranks as the 13th happiest country in the world in annual report
Canadians are reasonably satisfied with their lives when compared to those living in other countries according to the 2023 World Happiness Report, released today on the International Day of Happiness. Canada ranks 13th—moving slightly up from 15th— among the 137 countries included in the report.
Simon Fraser University psychology professor Lara Aknin, who studies happiness, prosocial behavior and altruism and is one of the report’s editors, says the research examines six key factors related to happiness including social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.
The rankings use survey data from the Gallup World Poll, which collects responses from approximately 1,000 people per country each year. Each respondent is asked to evaluate their life on a scale from 0 to 10 with 0 being the worst possible life and 10 being the best possible life for them. Rankings are based on a three-year average of the survey scores. This latest report covers the average survey scores from the pandemic years—2020 to 2022.
"This year's report features many interesting insights,” says Aknin, “but one that I find particularly interesting and heartening has to do with pro-sociality. For a second year, we see that various forms of everyday kindness, such as helping a stranger, donating to charity, and volunteering, are above pre-pandemic levels.”
“Higher rates of helping are positive in their own right, but may also be a key reason that life evaluations have remained surprisingly stable in the face of multiple global challenges,” Aknin says.
Some of Aknin’s own research in her Helping and Happiness Lab has shown that engaging in altruistic actions can promote happiness for both the giver and receiver.
Aknin says those receiving assistance experience feelings of gratitude, which is consistently related to various well-being outcomes. These include positive affect, optimism and perceived closeness to others. Gratitude may also have positive impacts on health, such as improved sleep and inflammatory markers.
Meanwhile those providing assistance experience a “warm glow,” reporting higher life satisfaction, fewer symptoms of depression and higher job satisfaction that lasts for up to two months after helping others.
Research shows that helping others promotes well-being and those reporting higher levels of well-being are more likely to engage in future altruistic behaviour creating positive momentum that can spread happiness across communities and countries.
Canada ranks just below Australia (12th) but ahead of Ireland (14th) and its neighbour, the United States (15th). Scandinavian countries continue to hold the top spots in the rankings, with Finland in first place for the sixth year in a row. War-torn Afghanistan and Lebanon remain the two unhappiest countries in the survey.
This year’s report also includes chapters on the future of well-being measurement through social media and effective government written by world experts on each topic.