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U.N. Says Americans Rank No. 17 in Happiness


People in the United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica and Mexico are living happier lives than Americans, according to the latest United Nations World Happiness Report.

(Photo Credit: Candie_N, Flickr)

The United States ranked No. 17 and Northern European countries are to happiness what the SEC is to college football, as they (Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden) dominated the top 5.

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How do you measure happiness? Well, the U.N. did it by available polling, including the Gallup World Poll, and asking people around the world about their emotional and life well-being.

Not surprisingly, one major factor that determines happiness is employment. The report looked closely at four European countries most affected by the economic downturn (Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal) and found that rising unemployment in those countries increased the unhappiness of the population.

“(High unemployment) has been shown to have large effects on the unemployed themselves, and also on those who remain employed, but who may be close to those who are unemployed, or may face possibly future unemployment, ” the report said.

Some studies show the biggest factor is determining a country’s happiness is mental health, but less than a third of mentally ill people, even in rich countries, are in treatment, the report said.

The goal of the report is provide data for governments so they can tailor policy to improve the happiness of their citizens, the report’s co-author John Helliwell told the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

“It’s so the objectives of governments should include happiness,” Helliwell said. “It’s important we have the science and the measures there so they are taken and understood. The report is intended to play into discussions about world development goals for 2015 to 2030.”


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Patrick Creaven
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