It’s become clear that both social and economic factors are at play in determining people’s happiness, so it’s no wonder that Norway won the top slot on the 2017 World Happiness Report, released Monday, up from fourth place last year.
“Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies,” said the report, put together by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. “To do this successfully requires high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance, all factors that help to keep Norway and other top countries where they are in the happiness rankings.”
Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland held the next three spots. The rankings are determined by a handful of social and economic factors that “support happiness,” the report said. They include gross domestic product per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (absence of corruption in government and business), generosity (as measured by recent donations) and perceived freedom to make life decisions.
The U.S. dropped in the rankings this year to 14 from 13 as a result of what Jeffrey D. Sachs, one of the study’s authors, views as a social crisis.
“The USA is a story of reduced happiness,” the study said.
The country can only rectify its happiness ranking by “addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis — rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust— rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth,” Sachs said in the report.
The U.S. should look to countries such as Norway, which displays enviable governance and trust in governmental institutions.
China is another place mired by social issues. Its ranking has barely shifted in 25 years despite an explosive rise in GDP per capita, the report noted.
The U.S. is listed even lower in the ranking of countries put out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, falling from No. 3 in 2007 to No. 19 in 2016, according to the report.
The overwhelming focus on economic growth in rankings such as the OECD’s often leaves out “broad societal matters such as inequality, pollution, political and civil liberties, international relations, and the like, which most individuals have little ability to influence,” the study said. “Abrupt changes in these conditions may affect happiness.”