World Happiness Report Is Sad Reading

US has dropped out of top 20 happiest nations, with young people now the unhappiest group
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2024 12:13 PM CDT
World Happiness Report Is Sad Reading
The US was ranked 62nd for happiness among people under 30.   (Getty Images)

The latest World Happiness Report is out and it doesn't paint a happy picture for young people in the West. The US, ranked No. 15 for happiness last year, has dropped eight places to fall out of the top 20, largely due to a drop in wellbeing among under-30s. The report found that young people are now the unhappiest group in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and the trend is headed the same way in Western Europe.

  • Big age differences. According to the report's researchers, who rely on self-reported evaluation, the US ranks 62nd in happiness among young people from 2021 to 2023—but if only the over-60s were included, the US would be in 10th place. Lithuania had the happiest young people, according to the report, while Finland, which was first for the seventh year in a row, followed by Denmark and Iceland, came in seventh when only the under-30s were included.
  • Comparing generations. "In comparing generations, those born before 1965 are, on average, happier than those born since 1980," researchers said. "Among millennials, evaluation of one's own life drops with each year of age, while among boomers life satisfaction increases with age."

  • A "red flag." Dr. Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general, tells the Guardian that the findings are "a red flag that young people are really struggling in the US and now increasingly around the world." He notes that American adolescents spent an average of nearly five hours a day on social media and says governments' failure to better regulate social media is "insane."
  • More reasons. Dr. Lara Aknin, editor of the report, tells the BBC that unhappiness among under-30s in the US and Canada "is linked with lower levels of satisfaction in social support, lower satisfaction with living conditions, greater stress and anxiety, lower trust in government, and higher perceptions in corruption."
  • Brighter spots. While happiness levels fell significantly in countries including the US, they rose in Central and Eastern Europe and in East Asia, especially among older people, according to the report. Costa Rica and Kuwait were new entries in the top 20.
  • A "well-established notion" contradicted. The report is coordinated by Oxford University's Wellbeing Research Center, Gallup, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, director of the Oxford center, said the report contradicts the "well-established notion" that young people start out happy before experiencing midlife crises and become happier again in old age, the Guardian reports. "To think that in some parts of the world children are already experiencing the equivalent of a midlife crisis, demands immediate policy action," he said.
(More happiness stories.)

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