U.S. continues to fall in annual ranking of happiest countries

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This Is the Happiest Country on Earth, Determined By New Study.The World Happiness Report 2021 named Finland the happiest nation out of the 149 countries surveyed for the study.The report was compiled by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, .and considers such national aspects as freedom, GDP, social support and life expectancy.It is the fourth year in a row that Finland has received the distinction.Denmark and Sweden came in second and third, respectively.The U.S. dropped a ranking this year from 18th happiest nation to 19th.Nations that emerged in the bottom spots include Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Rwanda

Two main reasons for yet another U.S. drop were racial tensions and growing income inequality

Ask anyone on the street to describe their 2020, and you probably won’t hear, “It was happy.” And yet, the 2021 World Happiness Report shows little changed globally during a year filled with fear, physical distancing and lockdowns.

“Surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people’s own evaluation of their lives,” said John Helliwell, a Canadian economist and editor of the report. “One possible explanation is that people see COVID-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody and that this has generated a greater sense of solidarity and fellow-feeling.”

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There might not have been a decline in well-being, but there was another decline in the United States’ ranking. The U.S. was No. 11 in 2012 (the first ranking) but dropped to No. 17 a year later. After climbing back a few spots, we dropped to No. 18 in 2020, then down to No. 19 this year.

The two main reasons for yet another U.S. drop were racial tensions and the growing income inequality between the richest and poorest residents, the report found.

“As for why the U.S. ranks much lower than other similarly or even less wealthy countries, the answer is straightforward,” Carol Graham, an expert at The Brookings Institution who was not involved in the report, told the Associated Press. “The U.S. has larger gaps in happiness rankings between the rich and the poor than do most other wealthy countries.”

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The annual report, produced by the U.N Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranks 149 countries based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy and the opinions of residents. Surveys ask respondents to indicate on a 1-10 scale 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.

Because of the pandemic, the surveys were done in slightly fewer than 100 countries for this year’s World Happiness Report. Index rankings for the other nations were based on estimates from past data.

For the fourth year in a row, Finland finished on top. Rounding out the top 10 were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Austria, in that order.

“We find year after year that life satisfaction is reported to be happiest in the social democracies of northern Europe,” Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, one of the report’s co-authors, told the AP. “People feel secure in those countries, so trust is high. The government is seen to be credible and honest, and trust in each other is high.”

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Associated Press reports were used in this article.

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