Chances are, if you live in the U.S., you feel worse today than you did 10 years ago. Don’t worry, it’s not you. This is a national problem: America’s rank on the happiness scale is falling.
When it comes to happiness, the U.S. ranked 19th among the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2016, down from third among 24 countries on a similar measure in 2007, according to the World Happiness Report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and funded by the Ernesto Illy Foundation.
Money, at least in the U.S., doesn’t buy happiness, the report found. Even as the country pulled off an economic turnaround, with increases in income and unemployment falling to historic lows, Americans are becoming less happy...
The report is based on an annual survey of 1,000 people in more than 150 countries that simply asks them to rank, on a scale of 0 to 10, whether they are living their best life.
Researchers then use six measures to try to understand the results: gross domestic product per capita, life expectancy, support from relatives or friends, charitable giving, freedom to make life choices, and perceived levels of government and corporate corruption.
Rankings are created using the average of three years of surveys. Nordic countries, of course, were the happiest. In the list covering 2014-16, Norway moved into the top spot as the happiest country in the world, followed by Denmark and Iceland. The least happy nations: Syria, Tanzania, Burundi and the Central African Republic. The U.S. ranked 14th on the most recent rankings average....
Jeffrey Sachs, one of the editors of the report, suggested five means by which to improve social trust: campaign finance reform, policies aimed at reducing income inequality (such as public financing of health), improved social relations between native born and immigrant Americans, working to move past the fear of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and improved access to high-quality education.
The political nature of Sachs' report is transparent: his suggestions for increased happiness are basically a Democratic wish list. And, like any good liberal, he completely ignores the most salient factor distinguishing the happiest countries from the unhappiest ones: their demographics.
Lists like this pop up from time to time, and I always wonder, how exactly do they measure happiness? I've seen similar lists where people are actually asked whether they're happy or not. But how can people possibly know -- in any remotely objective sense -- how their level of emotional happiness compares to others' unless they've inhabited other peoples' minds?
What these happiness reports fail to take into account is human nature. You can put two people into the exact same situation, and they would experience different levels of happiness from it. Some peoples' mental equilibrium dials seem to have been set to "happy," and others to "disgruntled." That's just their nature.
In fact, one's baseline happiness probably has an inverse relationship with one's quality of life. If you're the type to be satisfied with whatever nature has provided, you're less likely to work hard at improving GDP, making headway in medicine, and maintaining a functioning, democratic form of government which guarantees freedoms for its citizens.
Conversely, those most easily disgruntled would be more likely to work to improve their lot.
It also seems a little ironic that Scandinavians, who have always had a reputation for being morose -- remember those dour Swedes with their shortened days and the world's highest suicide rate? -- now rank highest in "happiness."
If you were to call this a "quality of life" index, using the same criteria, its conclusions would be more credible. Otherwise, it seems silly.
Meanwhile, in the interests of further equality -- which seems to be one of Sachs' goals -- Norway should voluntarily decrease its level of happiness by following the lead of its neighbor Sweden and import more Muslims.