The United Nations' annual ranking of the happiest nations in the world released Monday, and apparently it's a good time to live in a cold European nation.
Norway took the top spot, while the U.S. slipped from 13th to 14th. Rankings were based on six factors: income, social support, life expectancy, "freedom to make life choices," generosity and perceptions of corruption.
The report acknowledged Norway's win was close. The top four countries (including Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland) are typically so close that tiny changes any of the key factors mentioned above lead to entirely different rankings.
The UN report argues Norway became the happiest country "in spite of" its oil-based wealth. Instead of relying on the boom and bust cycles of many other oil-based economies, Norway has produced its oil slowly and "invested the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present," in addition to its strong social factor scores.
The top 10 (scores out of 10)
- Norway (7.537)
- Denmark (7.522)
- Iceland (7.504)
- Switzerland (7.494)
- Finland (7.469)
- The Netherlands (7.377)
- Canada (7.316)
- New Zealand (7.314)
- Australia (7.284)
- Sweden (7.284)
America's crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.
An entire chapter of the 184-page report was devoted to the paradox that the U.S.' gross domestic product is on the rise in recent years, but happiness is falling.
The report argues that while American politics is largely focused on restoring the "American Dream" via economic shifts, happiness would increase by focusing on social ills.
Jeffrey Sachs, author of the U.S. section of the report, argues the chief problem is the decline of "social capital," or the interconnectedness of a society. The state of money in politics and income inequality played a role in this.
The bottom 5 (scores out of 10)
151. Rwanda (3.471)
152. Syria (3.462)
153. Tanzania (3.349)
154. Burundi (2.905)
155. Central African Republic (2.693)
Other notable results from the rankings include Germany taking 16th, the United Kingdom taking 19th, and France ranking 31st overall. The report also found the biggest source of unhappiness in wealthier countries is mental illness.