The U.S. Ranks 13 th In Happiness. Here’s How We Get To No. 1.

If you’re happy and you know it, the United Nations knows why.

Ahead of the International Day of Happiness on March 20, the U.N. simply published its 2016 World Happiness Report, complete with insights into how the most cheerful countries get that way.

Of the 157 countries listed in the report, the U.S. ranks 13 th — with a score of 7. 104 on a 10 -point scale. By comparison, the most wonderful country, Denmark, scored a 7.526, and the leasthappy country, Burundi, scored a 2.905.

That means Americans are not exactly un happy, but there’s room for improvement. Here’s what the 12 happier countries are doing that we can do, too.

Broadly speaking, such reports received the largest single contributor to happiness is a country’s per-capita gross domestic product, which, on average, accounts for around 31 percentage of the total. That’s followed by social support( 26 percent ), healthy life expectancy( 18 percent ), freedom to induce life selections( 12 percentage ), generosity (8 percent ), and the absence of corruption( 5 percent ).

The U.S. largely leaves the poor to fend for themselves. Not so in the most wonderful countries. Jeffrey Sachs, a co-author of the World Happiness Report

On per-capita GDP, the U.S. outranks most of the countries in the top 10( less than Norway, roughly tied with Switzerland ). But it lags behind in almost every other category.

When a country focuses primarily on only one aspect of wellbeing, that tends to have a harmful impact on people’s broader sense of happiness. As an example, Qatar has a significantly higher per-capita GDP than the U.S ., yet ranks 36 th in happiness.

“When countries single-mindedly seek individual objectives, such as economic developing to the neglect of social and environmental objectives, research results can be highly adverse for human well-being, even dangerous for survival, ” the U.N. report states. “Many countries in recent years have achieved economic growth at the cost of sharply rising inequality, entrenched social exclusion, and grave damage to the natural environment.”

That suggests the U.S. would do well to build up its social support system, the second biggest contributor to happiness. A stronger social safety net could also lead to improvements in other categories in which America falls short — like healthy life expectancy, generosity and liberty to make decisions.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a co-author of the report, explains ๐Ÿ˜› TAGEND

The top countries, especially the Nordic countries, have much lower inequality than in the United States, and much greater social insurance. The U.S. largely leaves the poor to fend for themselves. Not so in the happiest countries. They possess what is called the “social democratic” ethos: that society should look after each other, and especially the least well-off. The top countries don’t is recognized that their CEOs walk away with tens of millions of dollars of annual compensation while the shop floor worker experiences declines in real purchase power.

The report doesn’t dig into specific policies, but some U.S. legislators argue that America should emulate certain aspects of Denmark’s social programs. In a 2013 Huffington Post blog, Sen. Bernie Sanders( I-Vt .) highlighted as particularly laudable programs that increase access to health care, child care and education, protect the unemployed and greatly expand paid time off for new parents.

Conversely, the authors of the 2016 report found that some countries with strong social safety net remained quite happy even in times of fiscal hardship. In Iceland and Ireland, for example, the social fabric was strong enough to support impressions of general wellbeing despite the deep economic meltdown beginning in 2007 -2 008.

“Both suffered decimation of their banking institutions as extreme as anywhere, and yet have suffered incommensurately small happiness losses, ” the report notes. “In the Icelandic case, the post-shock recovery in life evaluations has been great enough to put Iceland third in the global rankings for 2013 -2 015. …[ T] he percentage of people who report that they have someone to count on in times of crisis is exceptionally high in Iceland and Ireland.”

In other terms, economic growth is important, so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of social wellbeing, which acts as a cushion in times of economic strife.

Or as Thomas Jefferson put it, “The care of human life and happiness … is the only legitimate object of good government.”

Read more: www.huffingtonpost.com

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