Lifestyle

The Happiest Country In The World Is Small, Cold, And Dark

by Kate Ryan

March 21, 2017
Image via Flickr/Moyan Brenn

We get it, Nordic countries. Disneyland has nothing on you when it comes to being the happiest place on earth—according to the U.N.’s latest rankings anyway. In the U.N.’s 2017 World Happiness Report released on Monday, Norway snatches the top spot, knocking Denmark to second place, followed by Iceland in third and Switzerland in fourth. But as the report’s authors were quick to point out, the differences in happiness among the top four are small enough to be statistically irrelevant. It shouldn’t be surprising that rounding out the top ten happiest countries in the world are (in order) Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden. Also unsurprising are the least happy countries, with conflict-ridden Rwanda, Syria, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Central African Republic composing the bottom five.

You don’t need to read the entire report to figure out why the highest ranked countries might be more satisfied than the rest. They’re proud welfare states that provide universal, high quality healthcare, free education, and paid maternity leave. In stark contrast to these values is the United States, which has dropped to 19th place among the world’s richest countries and 15th place overall.

The old saying that money can’t buy you happiness proves to be truer than we realized, and the proof is in the stats. While America’s per capita gross domestic product has steadily risen over the past 60 years, happiness has not. And while there is a link between an increase in household income and better emotional well-being, this tidy correlation only exists up to a certain point. As Columbia University economist Jeffrey D. Sachs writes in the U.N.’s report, “America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.” Despite attempts to acknowledge this fact, representatives have not produced legislation to directly address growing concerns.

While it would be wise of us to learn from our happier counterparts, “the dominant political discourse is all about raising the rate of economic growth,” Sachs writes, “and the prescriptions for faster growth—mainly deregulation and tax cuts—are likely to exacerbate, not reduce, social tensions.” Hopefully our current administration will catch wind of these facts and reconsider cutting vital programs and health care access for millions of Americans. Just don’t hold your breath—that’s definitely not covered. 

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The Happiest Country In The World Is Small, Cold, And Dark