Norway tops list of who's happy Norwegian comedian Harald Ela explains why Norwegians are the happiest people on earth during an interview with the Associated Press in Oslo, Norway on Monday March 20, 2017. (AP Photo/David Keyton/AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Norway tops list of who's happy
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If you want to go to your happy place, you need more than cash. A winter coat helps. And so does a sense of community.
 
A new report shows Norway is the happiest country on Earth. Americans are getting sadder. And it takes more than just money to be happy.
 
Norway vaulted to the top slot in the World Happiness Report. This is despite the plummeting price of oil. A key part of its economy is oil. Income in the United States has gone up over the past decade. But happiness is declining.
 
The United States was 14th in the latest ranking. That is down from No. 13 last year. Over the years, Americans steadily have been rating themselves less happy.
 
"It's the human things that matter. If the riches make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy relationships between people, is it worth it?" asked John Helliwell. He is the lead author of the report. He also is an economist at the University of British Columbia in Canada (ranked No. 7). "The material can stand in the way of the human."
 
Studying happiness may seem frivolous. But serious academics have long been calling for more testing about people's emotional well-being, especially in the United States. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report. It recommended that federal statistics and surveys, which normally deal with income, spending, health and housing, include a few extra questions on happiness because it would lead to better policy that affects people's lives.
 
Norway moved from No. 4 to the top spot in the report's rankings. They combine economic, health and polling data compiled by economists that are averaged over three years. Those are from 2014 to 2016. Norway edged past previous champ Denmark, which fell to second. Iceland, Switzerland and Finland round out the top 5.
 
"Good for them. I don't think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness," said Meik Wiking, chief executive officer of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Wiking wasn't part of the global scientific study that came out with the rankings.
 
"What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good," Wiking said.
 
Still, you have to have some money to be happy. It is why most of the bottom countries are in desperate poverty. But at a certain point extra money doesn't buy extra happiness, Helliwell and others said.
 
Central African Republic fell to last on the happiness list. It is joined at the bottom by Burundi, Tanzania, Syria and Rwanda.
 
The report ranks 155 countries. The economists have been ranking countries since 2012. But the data used goes back farther so the economists can judge trends.
 
The rankings are based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy with four factors from global surveys. In those surveys, people give scores from 1 to 10. The ranking implies how much social support they feel they have if something goes wrong, their freedom to make their own life choices, their sense of how corrupt their society is and how generous they are.
 
While most countries were either getting happier or at least treading water, America's happiness score dropped 5 percent. It fell over the past decade. Venezuela and the Central African Republic slipped the most over the past decade. Nicaragua and Latvia increased the most.
 
Study co-author and economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University said in a phone interview that the sense of community, so strong in Norway, is deteriorating in the United States.
 
"We're becoming more and more mean spirited. And our government is becoming more and more corrupt. And inequality is rising," Sachs said. He cited research and analysis he conducted on America's declining happiness for the report. "It's a long-term trend and conditions are getting worse."
 
University of Maryland's Carol Graham, who wasn't a study author but did review some chapters, said the report mimics what she sees in the American rural areas. She said her research shows poor whites have a deeper lack of hope, which she connects to rises in addictions to painkillers and suicide among that group.
 
"There is deep misery in the heartland," Graham, author of the book "The Pursuit of Happiness," wrote in an email.
 
Happiness - and doing what you love - is more important than politicians think, said study author Helliwell. He rated his personal happiness a 9 on a 1-to-10 scale.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does happiness rise and fall?
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COMMENTS (30)
  • nickh2-nes
    3/30/2017 - 10:53 a.m.

    It rises from the amount of money someone has and it falls when people start to lose money then they lose everything which is their happiness

  • amirahd-
    3/30/2017 - 01:01 p.m.

    i love flowers

  • anastasiag-kut
    3/30/2017 - 05:38 p.m.

    Wow!!! Its so sad that the Americans happiness is going down. I wonder why that our happiness ratings are going down.

  • lellanor-dav
    3/30/2017 - 09:52 p.m.

    In response to "Norway tops list of who's happy," I agree that happiness rises and falls. One reason I agree is that when states go down in a nation's ranking they find them self less happy. It says in the article,"The United States was 14th in the latest ranking. That is down from No. 13 last year. Over the years, Americans steadily have been rating themselves less happy." Another reason is that research shows the way some states life and rank that happiness score. It says in the article."...she sees in the American rural areas. She said her research shows poor whites have a deeper lack of hope, which she connects to rises in addictions to painkillers and suicide among that group." A third reason some people do what they love and that ranks them high on the scale. In the article it says,"Happiness - and doing what you love - is more important than politicians think, said study author Helliwell. He rated his personal happiness a 9 on a 1-to-10 scale." Even though people may say different, I think happiness does rise and fall.

    • komala-jac
      3/31/2017 - 06:24 p.m.

      I agree to you, lellanor. The happiness rate isn't just falling out because of money, but other things. I think that doing what you love will make you especially happy. To conclude, I think happiness matters about your life, including your friends and family.

  • daltons1-ste
    4/03/2017 - 09:08 a.m.

    It's nice that despite the fall in oil prices Norwegians are extremely happy anyway. It is however sad that American's income keeps rising and happiness declines. This is terrible that Americans are like this.

  • sterlingt-
    4/04/2017 - 08:34 a.m.

    why did it hold for the 13th year from when it was first made and first brought up from the begging and how did is last that log before it ended because it cant make nobody happy

  • christied-pay
    4/04/2017 - 08:59 a.m.

    Happiness rises and falls based on the sense of community. With a corrupt government and countries desperate in poverty, money isn't one of the factors that bring happiness."The United States was 14th in the latest ranking. That is down from No. 13 last year. Over the years, Americans steadily have been rating themselves less happy." Another reason is that research shows the way some states life and rank that happiness score. It says in the article."...she sees in the American rural areas. She said her research shows poor whites have a deeper lack of hope, which she connects to rises in addictions to painkillers and suicide among that group." A third reason some people do what they love and that ranks them high on the scale. In the article it says,"Happiness - and doing what you love - is more important than politicians think, said study author Helliwell. He rated his personal happiness a 9 on a 1-to-10 scale." Even though people may say different, I think happiness does rise and fall.

  • brettb-pla
    4/04/2017 - 11:12 a.m.

    I think studying a country based on its happiness is a pretty bad idea. Happiness is not a very quantitative concept, and drawing conclusions based off of it is a very bad idea. Happiness is in the eyes of the beholder, and culture can accept the concept of happiness differently.

    It is interesting to see that the US is 13th on the list. Although we are well off, it could be our more stressful culture bringing us down.

  • joeg-orv
    4/04/2017 - 02:44 p.m.

    I think Norwegians are happy because they are able to do what makes them happy. There aren't very many other countries that have this quality.

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