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U.S. Falls Off List of Top 20 Countries Considered the Most Happy Places to Live and Work

08 Apr, 2024 Chriss Swaney

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Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) -- For the first time, the United States has fallen out of the top 20 spots on the annual world’s happiest nations list. Americans are now number 23, far behind the top five countries – Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Israel.

“American happiness is slipping. The common issue is generalized worry about where America is going on almost every issues from education to politics. And this discontentment leads to a belief that America is not well respected overseas,’’ according to Paul Krismer, founder of the Happiness Experts Company.

Krismer said one of the challenges for Americans comes from the fact that our social network is not as sophisticated as some of the European and Scandinavian countries. “There is also a perceived sense of violence in the U.S. and political separation leading to feelings of isolation,’’ said Krismer.  “And more American workers are simply stressed out which impacts happiness on the job and productivity,” he added.

Experts also point out  that economists who map out worker productivity have become more interested in happiness in recent years, partly because of the growing realization that traditional economic measures – such as unemployment or gross domestic product – are fully incapable of fully capturing the state of human welfare.

Because there are still many determinants of happiness in the United States, Krismer points out that the role of digital media is one culprit where many of the activities now correlated with unhappiness among young and old Americans – spending time on the Internet, listening to music alone, social media use – are typically done on a computer or cellphone.   “We are not interacting with one another like our ancestors did,’’ he said.

Donna Madaras, a retired school teacher from Pittsburgh, Pa. said she is always unhappy when she has to deal with any form of digital media. “It is so frustrating to try and get a real person on the phone when I want answers to a problem I am having with my phone or television,’’ Madaras said. “I feel disconnected, ‘’ she said.

Sarah Burridge, a literacy instructor from Manitowoc, Wis., said the rising cost of food, housing and new cars has made many Americans unhappy.   “It is a day-to-day struggle for some people and, in particular, younger people are finding it hard to even purchase their first home.”  “We may be seeing a nation of renters,’’ Burridge said.  

Researchers have found the urban-rural gradient also is shrinking. In the 1970s, the residents of rural areas were about 10 percent happier in absolute terms that their large-city counterparts. But the two groups are very close now, and some researchers suspect that the strong preference for urban life among millennials is a factor.

And when you drill down to examine the rankings by generation, the happiness study finds that Americans aged 10-29 were ranked 62nd among all countries on the happiness scale, far behind their counterparts in places like Lithuania, Israel and Serbia.

In the same study, Americans aged 30-44 were ranked 42nd for their age group, well below people  of the same age in other countries like Finland, Israel and Serbia. Americans 60 and over were the happiest age group in the country, ranking 10th on the global index, though that age group was still happiest in countries like Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The study specifically noted that loneliness was much more common in younger people. Loneliness is almost twice as high among Millennials than those born before 1965. The happiness study also zeroes in on six key variables for people feeling more happy in a given society: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and freedom from corruption.

“Happiness broadens a person’s building blocks: stronger cognition, boosted creativity, improved memory and increased energy. This foundation then leads to more life success, which in turn leads to happiness,’’ said  Krismer.


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    About The Author

    • Chriss Swaney

      Chriss Swaney is a freelance reporter who has written for Antique Trader Magazine, Reuters, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, the Burlington Free Press, UPI, The Tribune-Review and the Daily Record.

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