The United States keeps getting sadder — and things probably won’t get better under the policies of President Donald Trump.
That’s one of the conclusions from the latest World Happiness Report released by the United Nations, which has the U.S. dropping a spot to 14th in the world.
Meanwhile, Norway was ranked as the happiest country. Australia, Canada and Costa Rica all did better than the United States.
One reason America is getting gloomier: money doesn’t equal happiness.
“The central paradox of the modern American economy … is this: income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960, but measured happiness has not risen,” writes Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Columbia University economist and special adviser to the UN Secretary-General who compiled the U.S. section of the report.
Why wealth doesn’t always translate to happy people
Even while the U.S. has managed to raise overall economic growth, it continues to struggle with issues like rising income inequality, corruption, and public distrust, Sachs writes.
On the other hand, the happiest country, Norway, performs well with factors such as freedom to make life choices, generosity, absence of corruption in government and business, and social support. That last one includes universal health care, something the U.S. is lacking.
Basically, America’s looking for happiness in all the wrong places, with its increased wealth only benefiting a select group while the rest of nation is left struggling to stay afloat.
“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,” Sachs writes. “But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach.”
Dealing with America’s social crisis would require policymaking that tackles the biggest social plights at play, from distrust in the political system to the country’s still rising income inequality that sees the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, Sachs explains.
“Yet the dominant political discourse is all about raising the rate of economic growth, and the prescriptions for faster growth – mainly deregulation and tax cuts – are likely to exacerbate, not reduce, social tensions,” Sachs writes.
Such a strategy is precisely the one Trump has issued in the recent federal budget proposal. While throwing $54 billion into defense spending, he’s cutting taxes and stripping funds away from several spheres of government — from the Environmental Protection Agency to the departments dealing with health and education.
There’s also the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, with the GOP-endorsed replacement potentially taking away health care coverage from 24 million Americans.
Some other reasons for American unhappiness are a climate of fear due to the “open-ended global war on terror” following 9/11, the role of big money in political campaigns and a deteriorating educational system, according to Sachs.
The UN report measures overall happiness through factors including income per capita, perceived corruption of government and business, social support, freedom to make life choices, life expectancy and generosity of donations.
Here’s a look at the top 20:
8. New Zealand
12. Costa Rica
14. United States
19. United Kingdom
Hopefully the United States can climb a couple of spots in the next couple of years — or, at least, after four.