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Researchers VU contribute to World Happiness Report (UN)

18 March 2022
Researchers Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam contribute to World Happiness Report (UN) Amid War and disease, World Happiness Report shows bright spot.

Professor Meike Bartels (Genetics and Wellbeing) and her team members Margot van de Weijer and Lianne de Vries from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) wrote a chapter in the World Happiness Report about the biological basis of happiness to explain differences in happiness between people. This chapter gives an overview of studies that show that some people are born with a set of genetic variants that makes it easier to feel happy, while others are less fortunate. Bartels: "Therefore, information on causes of differences should be used to create happiness-enhancing interventions, social policies, activities, and environments that make possible the flourishing of genetic potential and simultaneously offset vulnerability and risk."

Van de Weijer: “When thinking about happiness, biology or genetics are often not the first thing that come to mind for most people. However, if you truly want to understand happiness and individual differences therein, these factors can and should not be ignored.”

Finland happiest country again
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the World Happiness Report, which uses global survey data to report on how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries around the world. For the fifth year in a row Finland takes the top spot as the happiest in the world. This year its score was significantly ahead of other countries in the top ten.

Denmark continues to occupy second place, with Iceland up from 4th place last year to 3rd this year. Switzerland is 4th, followed by the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Bartels: “However, it is essential that we also look beyond these average scores per country. Everybody is different and our chapter explains why it is easier for some people to be happier than for other people."

De Vries: “It's not surprising that happiness varies across countries and individuals, but the reasons why are a complex mixture of circumstances, events, genetics, and biology. We are just starting to discover what this mixture looks like.”

Bright light in dark times
In this troubled time of war and pandemic, the World Happiness Report 2022 reports a bright light in dark times. The pandemic brought not only pain and suffering but also an increase in social support and benevolence. As we battle the ills of disease and war, it is especially important to remember the universal desire for happiness and the capacity of individuals to rally to each other’s support in times of great need.

World Happiness Report