MORGONN MCMICHAEL: US falls out of world's 20 happiest countries ranking

For the first time since researchers began keeping tabs on which countries were the “happiest,” the United States fell from the top 20 happiest nations.

Now ranking 23rd among the world’s happiest nations, the U.S. has seen a precipitous decline in general happiness since last year, when Americans ranked 15th globally on the same survey. According to the report, developed by a partnership between Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the World Happiness Report’s editorial board, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network, it’s the younger American generations that are causing the substantial mood shift.

“There is a great variety among countries in the relative happiness of the younger, older, and in-between populations. Hence the global happiness rankings are quite different for the young and the old, to an extent that has changed a lot over the last dozen years,” said John F Helliwell, the founding editor of the World Happiness Report and a professor a the Vancouver School of Economics.

The report found that in the U.S. and Canada specifically, “rankings for those aged 60 and older are 50 or more places higher than for those under 30.” The report measured subjective well-being by polling “life evaluations, positive emotions, and negative emotions.”

When researchers further evaluated the happiness of individuals under 30 years old worldwide from 2021 to 2023, Americans within that age range ranked 62nd. This sharp decline was first noticed following the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic when more individuals were isolated and developed negative emotional reactions to the measures put in place by local, state, and federal authorities.

The downward trend has been ongoing for several years; however, as fewer Americans pursue aspects of life that reliably lead to happiness and general well-being.

Harvard’s longest study conducted over eight decades confirmed several “no-brainer” hacks to increase an individual’s likelihood of being generally happy. It concluded that happiness, alongside things like life expectancy and overall health, increased for married couples and those in meaningful relationships with other individuals in their community.

Robert Waldinger, the study’s director explained, “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80,” in a popular TED Talk that has been viewed millions of times.

However modern American’s individualistic view of the world overshadows marital relationships and even relationships with children or extended family members. Today, more children grow up in broken homes than ever before in the U.S., and the impact it has on young people’s welfare is substantial.

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, the director of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre and an editor of the global happiness report said, “To think that, in some parts of the world, children are already experiencing the equivalent of a mid-life crisis demands immediate policy action.”

This piece first appeared at TPUSA.


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