If you’ve always dreamed of becoming an expat, 2017 may be the perfect year to relocate to the paradise of Scandinavia because Americans are getting sadder and Norway is the happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report. Despite the fact that income has increased in the U.S. over the past decade, the country’s happiness is declining — so it looks like the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness is more than just a platitude.
“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 the report’s author, John Helliwell. “The material can stand in the way of the human.”
Denmark previously held the title of “happiest country in the world,” but it fell to second place this year and Norway rose from fourth to grab the top spot.
“Good for them. I don’t think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness,” said Meik Wiking, chief executive officer of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. “What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good.”
Of course, people need enough money to live comfortably in order to be happy — which easily explains why poverty-stricken countries Burundi, Tanzania, Syria, Rwanda, and the Central African Republic are ranked lowest for happiness.
But, extra money doesn’t translate to extra happiness — so everyone should take note of Nordic countries’ key values of maintaining a strong community and looking at the common good.
The report is based on the answers of participants in 155 countries who ranked their homeland on a scale of one to 10 on a variety of factors including how much social support they feel they have, their freedom to make their own life choices, their sense of how corrupt their society is, and how generous they are.
While most countries are getting happier, America’s happiness score has declined by five percent over the past decade.
Jeffrey Sachs, the study’s co-author, says that strength of community is declining in the U.S.
“We’re becoming more and more mean-spirited. And our government is becoming more and more corrupt. And inequality is rising,” he told Cosmopolitan. “It’s a long-term trend and conditions are getting worse.”
Helliwell added that happiness and doing what you love are more important than politicians think.
Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden rounded out the top 10. So, if you have dreams of living that expat life, you know where to start looking at real estate.