World Happiness Report on Croatia: How Did Country Jump to 23rd Place?

By 28 March 2021
Zagreb, Croatia
Zagreb, Croatia

March the 29th, 2021 - The World Happiness Report on Croatia and its details has been met with a few raised eyebrows. When talking about various lists and surveys, Croatia unfortunately doesn't tend to fare very well. Just how the country managed to jump from an unenviable 75th place to 23rd on the UN's The World Happiness Report is something baffling quite a few.

As Novac/Marina Klepo writes, Croatia hasn't been able to boast about its excellent ranking on any of the numerous charts of happiness and the like, but during the year of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems, it has experienced real providence. The ninth UN report The World Happiness Report, conducted by external experts (including John F. Halliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey D. Sachs), shows that among 95 countries, Croatia ranked 23rd last year, and in the period 2017- 2019, it was in a far less desirable 61st place.

In the previous report, from back in pre-pandemic 2019, which had a wider scope and included 156 countries, Croatia came in 75th place. This information, which points to a "rush of happiness" in 2020, seems so unreal that even well known news anchor Zoran Sprajc used it on RTL Direct only to point out, in his typical style, just how ridiculous these indicators can be.

Precisely what raised Croatia on this UN scale of happiness in just one single year, and during a year which was so difficult for the whole world? In an extensive survey based on the Gallup poll, last year brought a change in that questions were asked over the phone instead of face-to-face (previously discussed in three-quarters of countries). While this is a reason for caution in interpreting these latest results, the authors believe it didn't affect the overall ranking of countries because telephone surveys are very much the norm in most countries, pandemic or not.

The results of the questionnaire, which relate to the assessment of life, its positive (laughter and pleasure) and negative (anxiety, sadness) ingredients, indicate that at the top are those countries that have dropped the frequency of negative emotions the most. Although the report does not explain why the perception of happiness in Croatia has changed more than in any other country, the numbers show that there were significantly more positive and significantly fewer negative emotions, despite the pandemic and earthquake. One can only assume that it was these events that changed life’s priorities and preferences a bit, in line with the definition that happiness means having something to lose.

A previous World Happiness Report on Croatia, in which Croatia's residents were still very much on the unhappy side of life, showed that almost all comparable countries, including neighbouring Serbia and Montenegro, were better placed. Croatia's frustrated residents cited corruption and injustice and the feeling that they didn't have enough choices as the most common reasons for their sense of general dissatisfaction.

When it comes to the latest World Happiness Report on Croatia and the devastating impact of the ongoing coronavirus crisis on the overall well-being of individuals, the country is again not doing all that well. The index, which includes three variables - life expectancy, rising unemployment and mortality from SARS-CoV-2 - fell in all countries except for Egypt, China and Taiwan, which maintained the same levels respectively. On that scale, Croatia took 57th place.

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