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Happiness down in Britain, up in Jamaica

Covid makes its mark

By Ricky Browne

Covid-19 has assured that happiness was not as abundant in 2020. But while some countries like the United Kingdom have seen their happiness levels decline, some others like Jamaica have actually seen an increase.

As the United Kingdom marks the first anniversary of its first Covid-19 lockdown, it’s easy  to believe that happiness has not been as abundant as in previous years.

Happiness in Jamaica increased during Covid-19 while its declined in the UK

And indeed it hasn’t, as according to the World Happiness Report 2021, the level of happiness has declined in the UK – so that it lost five places when compared to 2019. It now stands at 18, down from 15.

The happiest country on Earth in 2020 was Finland, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands to finish off the top five.

To finish off the top ten were Sweden in sixth place, Germany, Norway, New Zealand and Austria.

A quote from the report

In the US happiness actually increased from 16 to 14 — in the year that Covid-19 killed more than 200,000 people and the nation was split between Trump and Biden supporters.

This was the ninth annual Happiness report. This year, because of the worldwide trauma caused by Covid-19, the index concentrated on wellness and how people were coping with the pandemic.

The report says that this year it focuses on the effects of COVID-19 and how people all over the world have fared. 

“Our aim was two-fold, first to focus on the effects of COVID-19 on the structure and quality of people’s lives, and second to describe and evaluate how governments all over the world have dealt with the pandemic. In particular, we try to explain why some countries have done so much better than others,” the report states.


Even without a Happiness Index, with the highest death rate in the world, the UK could not be expected to be doing that great.

A quote from the report

With more than 126,000 deaths caused by Covid-19 in the UK and more than six million people suffering bereavement, without even the ability to properly mourn or attend a funeral – it is hard to imagine that happiness could be anywhere near the level of 2019.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson touched upon this on a message on social media.

“Today, the anniversary of the first lockdown, is an opportunity to reflect on the past year – one of the most difficult in our country’s history,” Johnson tweeted.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauds before getting Covid-19 last year

He then printed an image of a statement, which included part of his tweet:

“The last 12 months has taken a huge toll on us all, and I offer my sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones. Today, the anniversary of the first lockdown is an opportunity to reflect on the past year – one of the most difficult in our country’s history.

“We should also remembered the great spirit shown by our nation over this past year . We have all played our part, whether its working on the front line as a nurse or a carer, working on vaccine development and supply, helping to geth that jab into arms, home schooling your children, or just staying at home to prevent the speed of the virus.

“Its because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all.”

The tweet got 2,800 likes and 1,500 comments.

So the UK now stands as the 18th happiest place on Earth, down from xx the previous year.

And yet, the result means that there were more than 100 other places that were unhappier than the UK.


That included every listed country in the sunny Caribbean, where Covid-19 has not yet had the devastating effect on lives, though it has largely destroyed the economy.

Jamaica is an example, where there were less than 500 deaths from the virus up to the end of the year, but the economy had shrunk to a negative rate of  -18 percent.

Usain Bolt points the way to Jamaican happiness

But as bad as it is economically, Jamaicans still found reason to celebrate, or so it seems – as its position on the index appeared to jump several places.

A direct comparison with the UK is not simple, as Jamaica did not make it onto the list that ranked happiness based on the 2020 survey. That list had only 95 countries.

But on the longer list of 149 countries that ranks the happiness for the combined years of 2018 to 2020, Jamaica performs not too badly, with a rank of 37.

From the World Happiness Report 2021

That places it between Mexico at 36 and Lithuania at 38, Chile at 43 and Colombia at 52.

A rank of 37 also means that Jamaica has improved its Happiness rank from 60th in the previous year. So happiness at a time of Covid increased in Jamaica, with its rank improving by 23 places. That compares to a fall of five places for the UK.

But yet, as bad as things are in the UK, the point is it still ranks about 20 places higher than Jamaica which has not been as badly affected.

Britain aside, Jamaica performs a lot better happiness-wise that several more developed countries, including: Estonia at 40, Panama at 41 and Japan at 56. It was also ranked as the happiest country in the Caribbean – but that wasn’t terribly difficult, as the only others listed were the Dominican Republic at 73 and the terribly unhappy nation of Haiti not far from the bottom at 143.

Haiti is the saddest country in the Caribbean and the Western Hemisphere — but not the saddest in the world

On that same list of 149 countries, the UK ranks a little higher than on the first list — 17th rather than 18th on the other list – between Costa Rica and the Czech Republic. In fact, Costa Rica was the happiest developing country on the list.

The happiest country in Africa was Mauritius at 50, with Libya at 80 and Congo (Brazzaville) at 83. Cameroon ranked 91 and Ghana ranked 95. South Africa was 103 and Nigeria was 116.

Confusingly, if we go back to the first list, Mauritius still ranks as the happiest country in Africa, and Africa ranks as the second highest, followed by Ghana.

The three unhappiest countries on this list are Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, it is hard to imagine that Jamaica will be able to increase its happiness level in 2021, as the pandemic has started to hit harder, with intensified lockdowns and the hospitals at 100 percent capacity.

But for a country that has normalised a murder rate of 1200 people per year, the happiness level could potentially soar if the pandemic is finally put to bed in the second half of the year.

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