Most Americans’ idea of happiness involves lounging by the water or on a beach somewhere. But it turns out, human happiness can flourish even in freezing climates far from the equator.
To wit, the Social Progress Imperative, a US-based nonprofit, released the results of its annual Social Progress Index report, which purports to rank countries based on the overall wellbeing of their citizens. Four Scandinavian countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway claimed the top spots, while the US placed 18th out of 128, leaving it in what the SPI defines as the “second-tier” of countries based on citizens' wellbeing, according to Bloomberg.
Luckily, being “second-tier” doesn’t seem that bad, according to a definition found in the report.
“Second-tier countries demonstrate “high social progress” on core issues, such as nutrition, water, and sanitation. However, they lag the first-tier, “very high social progress” nations when it comes to social unity and civic issues. That more or less reflects the U.S. performance. (There are six tiers in the study.)”
“We want to measure a country’s health and wellness achieved, not how much effort is expended, nor how much the country spends on healthcare,” the report states.
In a nod to the controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, as well as his efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, the report noted that the US received its lowest marks in the categories of “tolerance and inclusion” and “health and wellness.” America’s “tolerance” score has been sliding since 2014, around the time that several high-profile shootings of unarmed black men ignited the “Black Lives Matter” movement, sparking a national conversation about the prevalence of racism in US society.
The US isn’t the only developed country that has fallen in rankings like this one. According to Bloomberg, if taken in aggregate, the results of many quality-of-life surveys like the SPI suggest that rich nations have slid in the rankings in recent years.
The decline mirrors the slowdown in economic growth that’s occurred across the developing world. "Progress… has stalled for four years running. Based on overall world GDP, humanity as a whole could be doing a much more efficient job taking care of itself.”
This probably isn’t a coincidence: Economic growth, wages and consumption have stagnated in Europe, the US and Japan. Many European countries, along with the US and Japan, place in the “second-tier.”
In summary: Money – or rather, financial security - can buy happiness.
Here's a rundown of the top finishers: