Happiness: the state of being happy. It’s a word we all know, and something we all aim to achieve in life. It’s the ultimate goal in life, and many people claim that things such as success, money, family, and friends that all contribute to one’s happiness. But did you know that where you live can affect your happiness levels? There’s a reason that the Scandinavian countries top the world happiness charts every year.
In school, happiness is a popular topic for discussion. In French class, my class recently discussed what makes a country happy (thus sparking my interest in writing this post). In English, I watched a documentary on happiness, and it was actually pretty interesting. The documentary followed people who lived all around the world and gave an insight into their daily lives and their perspective on happiness. The people in Japan- stressed and overworked to the point of death- and the people in Switzerland- who live in close-knitted communities- are drastically different. So what makes a typically happy country, and what makes an unhappy country?
Finland, the happiest country on Earth, boasts a world-class free education system, free healthcare, police that actually help, and quality public services. The government is one that listens to the needs of its people and comes together rather than divide, like in the United States. A solid political system where the government is working with the people rather than against them is ideal in a happy country. On a societal level, Finland’s success can be attributed to its rigid social safety network, culture of trust, high-quality education, and a strong commitment to gender equality. The happiness in Finland stems from a number of policies for welfare, mutual trust, freedom, and equality. In the bottom ten countries on the World Happiness Report are countries in Africa that are currently undergoing political unrest and poverty, which leads me to my second point.
Money. Does it guarantee happiness? Of course not, but it sure makes life a whole lot easier. The wealthiness of a country can also directly correlate with the population’s happiness levels. Factors like GDP produced, number of imports and exports, and economic strength can all affect happiness. In the United States, everyone knows we’re an economic “superpower”, and we are towards the top half of the World Happiness Report. The top ten countries on the report all have very strong economies and economic freedoms.
So why isn’t the U.S. ranked in the top ten? After all, America is known for being the land of the free, the land of hope, the land where anyone can be whoever they want to be. We have a massive population, a booming economy, and some of the world’s greatest universities. But we all know America doesn’t live up to that reputation. First of all, wealth and race inequality are sky-high, with the rich making up over 90% of our “societal pie”. Secondly, there are still gender and race injustices everywhere, healthcare that’s way too expensive, colleges that are way too expensive, and the fact that America’s people are so split. From abortion to the economy to gun rights, Americans can’t seem to agree on anything; they just argue with each other. It can be argued that within the last four years, America has gotten increasingly unhappy under Donald Trump’s presidency, with extremists emerging from both sides. Coupled with the murder of Geroge Floyd and the poor U.S. response to COVID-19, it has been a tumultuous year for Americans. America is supposed to be the “dream” for immigrants, but how can we say that with ICE deporting thousands of people a day, a history of treating women and minority groups poorly, and the flagrant racism that still exists in society today. Yes, we’re getting better at the diversity and inclusion thing, but what do we need to do to make it on the Top 10 Happiest Countries?
We need to become more united and have a government that works with and listens to the people, which will hopefully be achieved through the Biden administration. The day Biden was elected was the happiest and most united I have ever seen America, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. We also must try and close the wealth gap, a huge problem in society because inequality results in unhappy people. Although nearly impossible, something must be done about outrageous college tuitions and hospital bills. People should not be thousands in debt to get an education and stay healthy. Lastly, the problems surrounding gender and racial problems in the U.S. must be addressed more efficiently. After all, we all are- no matter what gender, race, or background- Americans, and we deserve to be happy.