×

Who’s happy, who’s not: Norway tops list, U.S. falls

  • FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2016 file photo, a smiley face is seen on a sunflower in a sunflower field in Lawrence, Kan. Over the past decade as income in the U.S. has gone up, self-reported happiness levels have fallen fast, some of the biggest slides in the world. Yet this year, Norway vaulted to the top slot in the annual World Happiness Report despite the plummeting price of oil, a key part of its economy. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

  • FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016 file photo Norwegian fans wait for the beginning of the women's semifinal handball match between Norway and Russia at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A global happiness report has made the Norwegian foreign minister, well, happy. Reacting to the news Monday that Norway tops the world happiness rankings, edging out Denmark which was No.1 in the previous report. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) Matthias Schrader

  • FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 file photo Norwegian supporters wave their flags to support their Chef Christopher William Davidsen during the "Bocuse d'Or" (Golden Bocuse) trophy, in Lyon, central France. A global happiness report has made the Norwegian foreign minister, well, happy. Reacting to the news Monday that Norway tops the world happiness rankings, edging out Denmark which was No.1 in the previous report. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, File) Laurent Cipriani

  • Norwegian comedian Harald Ela explains why Norwegians are the happiest people on earth during an interview with the Associated Press in Oslo, Norway on Monday March 20, 2017,. A global happiness report has made the Norwegian foreign minister, well, happy. Reacting to the news Monday that Norway tops the world happiness rankings, edging out Denmark which was No.1 in the previous report. (AP Photo/David Keyton) David Keyton



Associated Press
Monday, March 20, 2017

If you want to pursue happiness, grab a winter coat.

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 support, 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 Happiness Report despite lower prices for oil, a key part of its economy. In the U.S., happiness has been declining for the past decade even as the nation has become richer.

The U.S. was 14th in the latest ranking, down from No. 13 last year, and over the years Americans 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 relationships 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).

Studying happiness may seem frivolous, but serious academics have long been calling for more testing about people’s emotional well-being, especially in the U.S. 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.