Norway tops list of who's happy
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 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 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, 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 and 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 recommending 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, which combine economic, health and polling data compiled by economists that are averaged over three years 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, who 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, which 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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Why does happiness rise and fall?
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  • vmargaret-dav
    3/28/2017 - 06:01 p.m.

    In response to "Norway tops list of who's happy," I disagree that it takes more than just money to make you happy. One reason that I disagree is that if you want to go visit your family someplace -which makes you happy- then you need money for gas or money for a plane ticket. Another reason I disagree is that when people win the lottery they are very happy. It says in the article, "Norway vaulted to the top slot in the World Happiness Report despite the plummeting price of oil." A third reason is that even at the happiness resort you have to pay to stay there. Even though friendship can make you happy too, this doesn't mean that money can't make you happy.

  • andrew17-war
    3/31/2017 - 12:10 p.m.

    I feel like the United States would be a happier place if we didn't have so much drugs and crime in our country. Also I feel that if we all agreed on a certain topic as country, we could be more united and work together to make this country better again.

  • ialexis-dav
    4/18/2017 - 05:07 p.m.

    In response to "Norway tops the list of who's happy," I agree that America has grown sadder over the past few years. One reason I agree is that our government has become more corrupt, we have become more mean-spirited, and inequality is rising. Another reason is that our lives in America have become more stressing, due to the fact that soon enough, lots of our jobs will probably be taken over by robots, we aren't getting paid, or we just plain need to find a job. It says in the article, "While most countries were either getting happier or at least treading water, America's happiness score dropped 5 percent". Americans have begun to get sadder, its a fact. A third reason is our lives have changed dramatically, with wars going on all over, we've begun to send in our own troops, making the families of our soldiers hope for a good outcome. Even though we have become a sad nation, I think we can get back up again:)

  • jewels1-bla
    4/28/2017 - 08:25 a.m.

    In response to "Why does happiness rise and fall?", I would say I believe that happiness rises and falls because of our wants and needs. If we do not get what we want, our happiness will fail; if we do not know how to handle the disappointment. There is always a bright side and people sometimes will fail to see this, which is why their happiness falls. Happiness is at its best when one is happy with oneself. If you are not content with living in the moment or with how you are, you will not be happy.

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