The United Nations just issued its World Happiness Report, and South Sudan, ravaged by war since its creation as a nation in 2011, ranked at the bottom of the list of 156 countries surveyed.
The report’s publication coincides with the International Day of Happiness on March 20, which was declared by the UN.
This is the seventh report published by the UN since 2012, and it considers six variables to determine its list: GDP per capita; social support; healthy life expectancy; freedom to make life choices; generosity; and perception of corruption.
The first yardstick gives an indication of poverty and purchasing power. Social support is defined by whether people who view themselves as in trouble have family or friends to turn to. This comes from the Gallup World Poll. Healthy life expectancy is largely from the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Observatory data repository. Freedom to make life choices is also from the Gallup poll. Generosity is measured by the financial generosity shown by people in the individual nations measured. Corruption is measured largely on perceptions of government and business.
The story was based on people’s perceptions of their own lives, and not just outside, more objective factors.
At the bottom of the rankings for the World Happiness Report are South Sudan, among the poorest nations in the world, followed by the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Finland was the world’s happiest country once again. Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway and Sweden all made the top 10 of the UN World Happiness Report. European countries Iceland, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland reached the top 10. Canada was the only nation from the Americas to make it into the top 10, and New Zealand rounded out the top 10 list.
The United States came in 19th place, dropping one spot from the last report. Of the variables considered, the United States ranks in the top 10 only for income (10th place). It is 12th in generosity, 37th for social support, 42nd for corruption and 61st place for freedom.
Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of the book “iGen,” believes a decline in happiness among Americans is tied to increased use of social media among adolescents who “spend less time interacting with each other in person.”
Another cause for a decline in happiness is addiction in various forms, according to Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, who contributed to the UN report. Sachs cited addictions such as substance abuse, excessive gambling and overuse of digital media. “The U.S. is suffering an epidemic of addictions, and that these addictions are leaving a rising portion of American society unhappy and a rising number clinically depressed,” Sachs said.