The Times West Virginian

November 3, 2013

Why are we so unhappy in the United States?


Times West Virginian

— Are you happy? Really happy?

If you are from Denmark, you probably are happier than citizens of other countries.

Recently, the University of British Columbia complied its annual happiness report, and the Danes took the lead in the world.

“The top countries generally rank higher in all six of the key factors identified in the World Happiness Report,” economics professor John Helliwell wrote. “Together, these six factors explain three quarters of differences in life evaluations across hundreds of countries and over the years.”

Those factors are: A large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth, lack of corruption in leadership, a sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.

“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” economist Jeffrey Sachs wrote in a statement when the report was released.

So the United States is No. 2? Nope. Top 10? Not a chance.

Seventeenth. Why are we so unhappy?

“Many Americans seem to be addicted to more, sooner,” Dr. Mark Golston writes for The Huffington Post. “That can lead to feeling that at any given time, no matter what they have, they always want more. And no matter how quickly they get it, they always want it sooner.

“If you think that is too simplistic, how many Americans do you know that are happy, or even OK with having less, later?”

Get rich quick. Miracle cure. Instant.

Let’s put it this way. In 2012, $20 billion was spent by consumers on diets, from books to DVDs to weight-loss foods and supplements. That’s billion with a “B” instead of increased exercise and decreased caloric intake. We want it now instead of putting the work in.

Look at it another way. Americans spend $650,000 per day on bonuses and cheats for the popular app Candy Crush Saga. Can’t pass a level? Buy your way to the next one.

Maybe it’s that drive for more immediately that makes us unhappy. Maybe it is something else. Last week we took the question to our readers, the ones who log on each week to www.timeswv.com to vote in our weekly poll question. Last week we asked “In a recent report, the United States was ranked No. 17 when it comes to happiness. What do you think makes us so unhappy?”

And here’s what you had to say:

• Relationships — 7.89 percent.

• Keeping up with the Joneses — 19.3 percent.

• Always wanting more — 33.33 percent.

• Finances — 39.47 percent.

Since most of the things that cause us so much worry and unhappiness are fleeting, for the most part, perhaps we should take a little advice from the music legend Bob Marley. “Don’t worry about a thing because every little thing is going to be alright.”

This week, let’s look at the controversial issue of medicinal marijuana. Do you think it should be legalized in the Mountain State?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV