Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 21st 2017 Contents A24 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Tuesday, March 21, 2017
If you want to pursue happiness, grab a win-
A new report shows Norway is the happiest country
on Earth, Americans are getting sadder, and it takes
more than just money to be happy.
What makes Norway and other northern European
countries top the happiness list has a lot to do with
a sense of community and broad social welfare sup-
port, according to experts and cheerful Norwegians,
including one whose job it is to make people laugh.
"The answer to why Norwegians are happy --- it's
a bit boring --- it's well functioning institutions,"
explained Norwegian comedian Harald Eia. "The
schools, health care, police, all the bureaucracy treat
people with respect and that trickles down and makes
us happy, makes us trust each other, makes us feel
a part of the whole community. So it's very boring:
bureaucrats are the secret to our happiness."
Norway vaulted to the top slot in the World Hap-
piness Report despite lower prices for oil, a key part
of its economy. In the US, happiness has been de-
clining for the past decade even as the nation has
The United States was 14th in the latest ranking,
down from No 13 last year, and over the years Ameri-
cans steadily have been rating themselves less happy.
"It's the human things that matter. If the riches
make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy re-
lationships between people, is it worth it?" asked
John Helliwell, the lead author of the report and an
economist at the University of British Columbia in
Canada (ranked No 7). "The material can stand in
the way of the human."
Studying happiness may seem frivolous, but serious
academics have long been calling for more testing
about people's emotional well-being, especially in
the United States.
In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences issued
a report recommending that federal statistics and
surveys, which normally deal with income, spending,
health and housing, include a few extra questions on
happiness because it would lead to better policy that
affects people's lives.
Norway moved from No 4 to the top spot in the
report's rankings, which combine economic, health
and polling data compiled by economists that are
averaged over three years from 2014 to 2016. Norway
edged past previous champ Denmark, which fell to
second. Iceland, Switzerland and Finland round out
the top five.
"I think it's the work-life balance. So we have a big
safety net, so we get free education, free health care,
so it's really good," said 29-year-old Marin Maal in
Oslo. "And we're close to nature."
Still, you have to have money to be happy, and it
is no coincidence that Norway is one of the richest
nations in the world. It's also why most of the bottom
countries are in desperate poverty. But at a certain
point extra money doesn't buy extra happiness, Helli-
well and others said.
Central African Republic fell to last on the hap-
piness list, and is joined at the bottom by Burundi,
Tanzania, Syria and Rwanda.
The report ranks 155 countries. The economists
have been ranking countries since 2012, but the data
used goes back further so the economists can judge
The rankings are based on gross domestic product
per person, healthy life expectancy with four factors
from global surveys. In those surveys, people give
scores from one to ten on 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
While most countries were either getting happi-
er or at least treading water, America's happiness
score dropped five per cent over the past decade.
Venezuela and the Central African Republic slipped
the most over the past decade. Nicaragua and Latvia
increased the most.
University of Maryland's Carol Graham, who wasn't
a study author but did review some chapters, said
the report mimics what she sees in the American
rural areas, where her research shows poor whites
have a deeper lack of hope, which she connects to
rises in addictions to painkillers and suicide among
"There is deep misery in the heartland," Graham,
author of the book The Pursuit of Happiness, wrote
in an email. (AP)
Norwegian handball fans at the 2016 Rio Olympics, a study shows that Norway is
the top of the table when it comes to happiness too. AP PHOTO
Who's happy, who's not:
Norway tops list, US falls
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