World Happiness Report 2018: Why Is US, Ranked 18th, Sadder Than Before?

The World Happiness Report 2018 ranked the United States of America 18th in its list — four spots lower from last year.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a United Nations’ initiative, publishes the World Happiness Report, and this is the second consecutive year the U.S. has been unable to maintain its spot, let alone climb up ranks, in the list that counts down from the happiest to the saddest country in the world.

So how did the analysts decide the U.S. was unhappier than it was a year ago? By taking into account factors like GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, corruption levels, trust and generosity. Another vital factor that went into determining the happiness ranking of each country was how well immigrants settled into their new homes.

“The main focus of this year’s report, in addition to its usual ranking of the levels and changes in happiness around the world, is on migration within and between countries,” the World Happiness Report website said.

The report also goes on to say the most striking fact was that “a ranking of countries according to the happiness of their immigrant populations is almost exactly the same as for the rest of the population.”

Happiness According to the World Happiness Report 2018, the United States of America is listed in the 18th spot. In this photo, army Sgt. Kimberly Singletary is hugged by a friend during a welcome home ceremony at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, Dec. 30, 2005. Photo: Getty Images/ Stephen Morton

This means Finland, which was the happiest country as per the report, also harbors the happiest immigrants in addition to having the most content population in general.

“The most striking finding is the extent to which happiness of immigrants matches the locally born population,” John Helliwell, a University of British Columbia economist who co-edited the report, told the Washington Post. “The happiest countries in the world also have the happiest immigrants in the world.”

Denmark and Norway followed Finland as the close second and third, respectively, while the lowest-ranking three countries were Burundi, the Central African Republic and South Sudan – places riddled with turmoil and instability.

“Happiness can change, and does change, according to the quality of the society in which people live,” the report said. “Immigrant happiness, like that of the locally born, depends on a range of features of the social fabric, extending far beyond the higher incomes traditionally thought to inspire and reward migration.”

Even though a nation’s per capita income did play a role in deciding its position on the list, it was not a primary factor in determining the ranks.

“Social support networks in the U.S. have weakened over time; perceptions of corruption in government and business have risen over time; and confidence in public institutions has waned,” the report said.

Furthermore, the opioid epidemic, and mental and physical health issues like depression and obesity overshadowed the economic growth in the U.S.

Fortunately, U.S. need not look further than its neighboring countries to find role models on how to stay happy. Despite being embroiled in constant violence, income disparities and dissipating confidence on governmental institutions, Latin America has proven to be happier than its northern counterpart.

“Relationships are important for people’s happiness; and that positive relationships are abundant in Latin America,” the report reads.

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