Despite the many blessings of living in America, why aren’t more Americans happy?
According to World Population Review, the 2021 World Happiness Report ranks America as the 19th happiest out of 146 countries.
The report bases happiness on six categories, including gross domestic product (GDP), social support, life expectancy, generosity, perceptions of each country’s corruption levels, and the freedom for citizens to make their own life choices.
GDP is a general estimate of the total value of finished goods and services that a country has produced within a specific period of time, usually measured in a year.
America has the highest GDP in the world, yet that isn’t producing the highest happiness ranking in the world.
To be sure, money isn’t everything where happiness is concerned, according to Time.
Several studies show that once your basic financial needs are met and you have enough money to enjoy a few niceties, more money does not necessarily equate to more happiness.
Though, as my Uncle Bert has wisely noted, if you’re going to be miserable anyway, you might as well be rich!
America’s life expectancy ranking is awfully disappointing. Out of 227 countries, we rank 46th. Other advanced economies are doing much better than we are. Our neighbor Canada is ranked sixth.
Understanding why we aren’t living longer requires deep examination, but a report by the National Institute of Health explains why it would negatively impact our happiness ranking.
That brings us to generosity.
According to the 2019 World Giving Index (PDF), Americans had been the most generous people on Earth for the prior decade, reports Marketwatch.
However, the 2021 World Giving Index (PDF) says the USA “has seen a significant decline across all three scores since 2016 — a trend which accelerated in 2020.”
Why are Americans giving less? When the downtrend began in 2016, The Atlantic tried to identify the underlying causes.
Cynicism could be one of them.
“Fewer Americans feel that their volunteer work and donations actually make a difference in their communities,” reports The Atlantic.
Since helping others brings you a lot of joy, is our reduction in giving another source of our unhappiness?
Then there is our perception of corruption.
If you live in a country where government corruption is high, you likely feel powerless in your ability to influence your government’s policies with your voice and your vote.
When President Trump won in 2016, half the country thought he stole the election. Today, the other half of the country thinks President Biden stole the 2020 election.
With perception of government corruption running high, I suppose it could contribute to the unhappiness of many Americans.
The last measure of happiness in the World Population Review involves the freedom of citizens to make their own life choices — a basic freedom that has been significantly limited by some state governments during the COVID pandemic.
States like Florida and South Dakota generally kept their economies and schools open and preserved their citizens’ freedom to make their own decisions, but states like California enforced strict lockdowns and mask mandates — making many people very unhappy.
Now that I think about it, given what we’ve gone through the last year and a half, maybe we should be happy we didn’t rank considerably lower than 19th on the 2021 World Happiness Report.
Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com