U.S. Happiness out of top 20.

Here’s an interesting report about a decline in the overall happiness of Americans. The questions for me: Why is this happening? Are some parts of our citizenry more unhappy than others? And how does this affect our ability to deal with climate change and sustainability? Comments afterwards.

 

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U.S. Falls Out of Top 20

Happiest Countries for the first Time Ever

 

Solcyre’ Burga

TIME

MARCH 19, 2024

 

For the first time in the World Happiness Report’s dozen-year history, the U.S. did not rank in the top 20 of the world’s happiest countries.

Out of the more than 140 nations surveyed, the U.S. landed in 23rd place, compared to 15th place in 2023. While the U.S. is still in the top 10 happiest countries for those 60 years old and above, its overall ranking fell due to a significant decline in the reported well-being of Americans under 30.

Finland ranked at the top of the list for the seventh year in a row. Lithuania is the happiest country in the world if you only look at those under the age of 30, while Denmark is the happiest country for people who are 60 and older.

This was the first year the report, released March 20 to mark the UN’s International Day of Happiness, analyzed rates of happiness by age group. John F. Helliwell, professor at the Vancouver School of Economics and founding editor of the World Happiness Report, said …

 

“We found some pretty striking results. There

is a great variety among countries in the rela-

tive happiness of the younger, older, and in-

between populations. Hence the global hap-

piness rankings are quite different for the

young and the old, to an extent that has

changed a lot over the last dozen years.”

 

The findings were developed through a partnership between Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the World Happiness Report’s editorial board, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Countries are ranked based on a “three-year average of each population’s average assessment of their quality of life,” the press release said.

The most recent report relies on data that was collected after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with survey respondents answering questions from 2021-2023.

According to the report, people born before 1965 are, on average, happier than people born after 1980. Millennials report drops in their life satisfaction with every year they grow older, while boomers’ happiness increases the older they get.

Globally, people between the ages of 15 and 24 typically report greater life satisfaction than older adults. But the 2024 report finds that the gap is shrinking in Europe, and has reversed in North America. The data contrasts with reports of life satisfaction between 2006 and 2010, when the younger generation in North America were just as happy as older folks.

Ilana Ron Levey, Gallup Managing Director, says …

 

“Social connections could be one factor explaining

the generational happiness differences. Different

generations have different levels of social connections

and we know social support and loneliness affect

happiness. The quality of interpersonal relationships

may affect the young and the old differently.”

 

In Central and Eastern Europe, Ron Levey notes, younger people tended to report higher levels of happiness than older people, in part because of social connection. But the data differs elsewhere in the world, including in the U.S. Last May, the U.S. Surgeon General brought attention to the public health crisis of loneliness and isolation, calling it an epidemic. A previous report by the American Psychological Association found that Gen Z adults reported higher stress levels than older generations, with health and finances cited as top concerns.

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, the director of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre and an editor of the report, said …

 

“Piecing together the available data on

the wellbeing of children and adolescents

around the world, we documented discon-

certing drops especially in North America

and Western Europe. To think that, in some

parts of the world, children are already

experiencing the equivalent of a mid-life

crisis demands immediate policy action.”

 

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My question about all this: Why is the younger generation less happy than the older generation?

One factor could be technology. When I was a kid, instructions from my mom were: “Go out and play.” In the “Writing to Persuade” book, the author noted how today’s youth has grown up with programmed software, rather than blank sheets of paper or empty play fields. So, youth is seasoned to respond to pre-programmed algorithms. And texting reduces incidents of face-to-face dialogue, so the “human connection” is less. Adding D’s perceptions …

“The more that individuals follow the news, are connected to their Smart phones, and compare themselves to others, the more anxiety – and less happiness – they feel. 

“We are concerned about the need for “things” in order to feel successful and “good about themselves” by purchasing an outfit, a pair of shoes, or a piece of technology.  When one is only concerned about the external views of themself, the less they pay attention to their internal development of character.  There has been a major shift in the past 30 years of moving from a society that values one’s character attributes, such as integrity, or caring for others, or being well-read.

“Smart phones have been proven to teach people to think in small bits of information, and many issues require broader and deeper thinking and action. The algorithms are designed to make phones addictive. What people need is more time in nature, more time unplugged, more time with others, and more time for quiet reflection. A slowing down and learning to live with one’s values – so that one becomes internally driven – is an important skill to cultivate. 

“It will also lead to greater happiness.”

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