A global study has shown that Americans are less happy than they were a decade ago—a fresh signal that an U.S. economic collapse has never been closer.
The new World Happiness Report 2016, released just before UN World Happiness Day on March 20, determined that the U.S. came in 13th in a ranking of countries as measured by happiness.
Denmark, a nation of no more than six million citizens, is the happiest country in the world, according to the report. The country bumped Switzerland down a rank from the number one spot by just a few decimals.
The U.S., the world’s third-largest country by population, came behind Austria and Israel but ahead of Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the U.K., Spain, and France.
The report showed that the U.S. improved its happiness level from the 15th rank last year and 17th in 2013. In 2012, it was 11th on the list.
However, on a ranking of whose score moved up and down the most, the U.S. ranked 93rd out of 126 countries, with number 126 being the economically troubled Greece. The measure indicates that Americans are much less happy than they were when an earlier measurement was taken between 2005 and 2007. (Source: “Why Americans Have Gotten a Lot Less Happy Over the Past Decade,” Time, March 16, 2016.)
Among striking signs that a U.S. economic collapse is imminent are the following: real wages are falling for average Americans, roughly one-third of American adults do not have any emergency savings, and U.S. companies are increasingly relying on foreign sales.
The report was prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
The report’s happiness index uses a seven-point scale to measure each country that includes gross domestic product (GDP), social support, healthy life expectancy, the freedom to make choices in life, generosity, and the perception of corruption.
“There is a very strong message for my country, the United States, which is very rich, has gotten a lot richer over the last 50 years, but has gotten no happier,” Reuters quoted Professor Jeffrey Sachs, head of the SDSN and special advisor to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as saying. “The message for the United States is clear. For a society that just chases money, we are chasing the wrong things. Our social fabric is deteriorating, social trust is deteriorating, faith in government is deteriorating,” he said. (Source: “Denmark world’s happiest country, Burundi least: new report shows,” Reuters, March 17, 2016.)
On the other hand, the 2016 survey showed that three countries in particular—Ireland, Iceland, and Japan—were able to maintain their happiness levels despite external shocks such as the post-2007 economic collapse and the 2011 earthquake because of social support and solidarity.
The top 10 this year were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden. Denmark was in third place last year, behind Switzerland and Iceland.
The bottom 10 were Madagascar, Tanzania, Liberia, Guinea, Rwanda, Benin, Afghanistan, Togo, Syria, and Burundi.
The first report was issued in 2012 to support a UN meeting on happiness and well-being.