What’s the Secret of Our Success?

There’s a lot of stewing about the World Happiness Report and that the people of the United States, apparently, aren’t as happy as they used to be. At Bloomberg View Leonid Bershidsky remarks:

Wealth is easy to quantify, so many governments concentrate on fixing this variable. That appears to be Donald Trump’s intention in the U.S., too. But the experience of the small European nations at the top of the table shows that once a certain level of wealth is achieved, growth isn’t as important to happiness levels. As long as per capita GDP is relatively stable, the other factors do their job, and if there’s a problem with them — for example, health care becomes less accessible or deteriorates, the social fabric starts fraying, people grow more selfish or freedom erodes — people tend to feel unhappy despite an unchanged comfort level.

I think that they need to start looking at the United States differently. Here are the report’s ten happiest countries:

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

The U. S. is fourteenth.

Those countries have some things in common. With the exception of Finland they’re all mostly speakers of Germanic languages (as is the U. S.). They’re all small and quite homogeneous. Many are culturally Lutheran.

The United States is the only really populous, racially and ethnically diverse country among the twenty happiest countries. So, two cheers for us.

Not only are we large and diverse but we’re able to keep it together. Rather than moaning (or chuckling) that the U. S. isn’t the happiest country, maybe other countries should be wondering about the secret of our success.

6 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    These are always interesting and I think you are right.

    BTW, the total population for all the countries in the top 20, except for the US, is about 5 million less than the total US population. Or, said another way, out of the 20 most populous countries, only the US and Germany make the top 20 by happiness.

    It is pretty remarkable we do as well as we do considering we’re the third largest country in the world by population, one of the most diverse, and one with a high percentage of first-generation immigrants.

  • michael reynolds Link

    It’s like Olympic diving – you have to consider the level of difficulty of the dive, not just the execution.

  • Andy Link

    Michael, that’s brilliant.

    They just had one of the lead authors on NPR and said one of the best ways to increase happiness is to turn of the TV, particularly TV news.

  • michael reynolds Link

    They just had one of the lead authors on NPR and said one of the best ways to increase happiness is to turn of the TV, particularly TV news.

    Or you can leave on the TV but have a bottle of whisky close at hand.

  • mike shupp Link

    The secrets of our success, eh? Hmmm . . .

    Gotta consider that until last year or so, we’ve not paid much attention to the grievances of Trump supporters.

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