Americans May be Rich, But They’re Not Happy

Mar 20, 2017

President Donald Trump's promises of 4% GDP growth in America isn’t the best way to make his constituents happier, according to a new United Nations study.

That's because while economic growth has gradually been on the rise in the U.S. since the financial crisis, Americans' happiness has only been getting worse in recent years, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report. In fact, U.S. happiness as at its lowest score since 2006, dipping to about 6.8 on a 10-point scale measured by the Gallup International Cantril ladder.

The U.S. doesn't even rank in the top 10 happiest countries —coming in 14th place out of the 155 nations polled in 2016 — and it was nearly a full point below Norway, which was rated the happiest country with a 7.6.

"The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it," a section of the report authored by economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs, stated. "But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach."

Researchers polled about 1,000 people in each country and studied various factors including GDP per capita, life expectancy, donations, perceived corporate and government corruption, social support from family and friends, and freedom to make life choices.

Americans think government corruption is on the rise in the country — up 15% since 2006. Generosity of donations, social support from friends and family, and Americans' sense of personal freedom has also deteriorated, according to the study. That's helped push happiness in the nation as measured by Gallup even lower.

Sachs added that focusing only on economic growth could actually exacerbate the "deepening social crisis."

"The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis—rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust," he wrote.

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