By Ken Stern 

From the editor

Some of us are not happy


If there is one thing that is certain in the dominant culture of the United States, it is that we are number one. The best. The greatest. Back in the halcyon days of certainty portrayed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, the metaphor was that we were the shining city on the hill, the beacon of light and hope, the place where everyone in the world wanted to be. Our citizens were the envy of mankind. We were all born with silver spoons in our mouths and our streets were paved with gold.

That is why people from all over the world strive to come here, hacking their way through jungles, crossing hot baren deserts and swimming across the Rio Grande. What do immigrants find? Work. And relative wealth. Jackpot.

But if this is the land of milk and honey, why aren’t we happy? Not just happier, but plain old fashioned, relaxed laugh-out-loud happy? Many of us are not happy at all. In March the annual international happiness index came out and the United States was not in the top 10. It is not in the top 20. We are 23rd. While we rank above Germany and France, the U.S. lags far behind the seven Nordic countries leading the list. Canada is 15 and Britain is 20.

So it does not matter that our gross domestic product is the largest in the world or that our football teams are the greatest and so are our baseball and basketball teams, most of the time. We do overwhelm the world in military spending by a huge margin, like more than everyone else combined.

We are second in billionaires and sixth in millionaires China is first in each.

We are leaps above any country in drug overdose deaths and ahead of all European societies in death by violence and car crash deaths. Those are telltale signs of troubled minds, struggling souls and folks rushing to get where?

Henry Thoreau asked the question this way in “Walden,” published in 1854: “Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises?”

In the U.S., the oldest age groups, seniors, are tenth in the world. What drags our country down? The groups under 30 are not true believers – nor happy – ranking 62nd against their peers. Why might that be?

The six key variables are GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity and corruption levels in business and government.

Is it fair to ask if our elders have failed our youth? If we have, why have we?

The World Happiness Report is a partnership of Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the WHR’s editorial board. The report is produced under the editorial control of the WHR editorial board.

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