Why The United States Keeps Falling in World Happiness Rankings

We seem to be far more focused on happiness and the happiness of our culture in general lately, and that is a good thing. What many people might be surprised to know is that each nation has a “Happiness Ranking,” which is a combination of multiple, different factors that all contribute to overall happiness or the lack thereof in that country.

We should start paying even more attention to our country’s happiness ranking. We should pay attention to it, we should try to increase it, and we should do this because the U.S. world happiness is not only not the number one country for happiness, it’s not even on the top ten list!

There are a lot of factors which have contributed to why the U.S. does not rank that high in world happiness, and we will take a look at those reasons.

How the Top Ten, Happiest Countries All Match Up

Currently, Finland is the happiest country in the world. The World Happiness Report tabulates these rankings by estimating the overall happiness of residents in one-hundred and fifty-six countries. The report also takes into account the happiness of the immigrants in one-hundred and seventeen countries.

According to the report, the happiness of Americans has decreased, even as the wealth of the U.S. has continued to grow. But wealth is by no means the only determining factor in measuring happiness. The World Happiness Report measures a country’s happiness based off of the following factors:

  • The income of the residents and of the country as a whole.
  • How strong the “healthy life expectancy” in that country is.
  • The degree to which the country offers social support for its residents.
  • The degree of overall freedom in that country.
  • How much generosity there is in the country.
  • The relative absence of corruption in the country.

These are the metrics that the World Happiness Report uses to measure happiness in a country. Finland scores exceptionally high in all categories. Finland also scores very well in the Best Countries Rankings, which is a source of information for the 2018 World Happiness Report. According to the 2018 Best Countries Rankings, Finland is doing very well for being an international leader in education. Finland has a high ranking for strong performance in civil rights. Finland also ranks well for press freedom, ethical companies, and overall quality of life amongst citizens.

According to the report, the top ten happiest countries are included below, also with their “Best Countries” ranking:

  • Finland. Happiness Rank: 1. Overall Best Countries Rank: 14.
  • Norway. Happiness Rank: 2. Overall Best Countries Rank: 12.
  • Denmark. Happiness Rank: 3. Overall Best Countries Rank: 11.
  • Iceland. Happiness Rank: 4. Overall Best Countries Rank: N/A.
  • Switzerland. Happiness Rank: 5. Overall Best Countries Rank: 1.
  • The Netherlands. Happiness Rank: 6. Overall Best Countries Rank: 10.
  • Canada. Happiness Rank: 7. Overall Best Countries Rank: 2.
  • New Zealand. Happiness Rank: 8. Overall Best Countries Rank: 13.
  • Sweden. Happiness Rank: 9. Overall Best Countries Rank: 6.
  • Australia. Happiness Rank: 10. Overall Best Countries Rank: 7.

This is the quick look at the top ten countries for happiness. Notice how each country that ranks in the top ten for happiness also ranks in the top twenty for “overall best countries.”

Why is the U.S. Not Number One?

“We are the U.S., we are number one!” How many times have we heard that phrase? Many times easily. But is this actually the truth? Perhaps not. At least not when it comes to happiness. The United States is getting richer it would seem, but it’s not getting happier. Currently, the U.S. ranks number eighteen in world happiness rankings.

Why is this? One would think that the United States, the wealthiest and the freest of nations, should also have the best happiness rankings. This is not the case though.

One of the factors is that the United States seems to have greater income inequality than other nations do. By this is meant that the rich can get richer easily while the poor get poorer. And the middle class, blue-collar American workers seem to struggle with breaking out of the middle class and into the upper class. This is a factor of reduced opportunity, and it contributes to a reduction in overall happiness.

Another, major factor that contributes to lower happiness in the U.S. is the long list of the health issues that the U.S. is currently stricken with. According to the World Happiness Ranking report:

  • “The U.S. is in the midst of a complex and worsening public health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards.”

The report also talks a lot about immigration factors in each country, and how immigration plays a part in the happiness of the country. Immigration, drug trafficking, and happiness are all intricately linked in the U.S. According to John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and a professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia:

  • “The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born. Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose.”

The U.S. needs to approach and rectify its income disparity. The U.S. also needs to rectify the immigration struggles that it currently has. But perhaps most importantly of all, the U.S. must address their current drug abuse problem and other, attendant health problems. As long as the actual, physical health of the American people suffers so much, efforts in other areas will not be that effective in increasing the nation’s happiness ranking.

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/04/03/nordic-countries-continue-to-rank-high-in-happiness-while-america-falls/#281d6ea923fa

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/14/finland-happiest-country-world-un-report

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-03-14/world-happiness-report-finland-lands-no-1-united-states-falls-again

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