Norway topped the World Happiness Report for 2017, edging out Denmark which came in first in 2016. Increasing happiness is a lofty goal often linked to increasing social progress.
The report is based on an annual survey of 1,000 people in more than 150 countries that simply asks them to rank, on a scale of zero to 10, whether they are living their best life. The U.S. keeps falling behind in 2017 we were ranked 14.
Jeffrey D. Sachs, one of the editors of the report, "suggests five means by which to improve social trust: campaign finance reform, policies aimed at reducing income inequality (such as public financing of health), improved social relations between native-born and immigrant Americans, working to move past the fear of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and improved access to high-quality education. America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis,” Sachs wrote. “Not an economic crisis.”
So what about aging and happiness? Turns out researchers from Columbia University and the University of Southern California have uncovered the five best places to age.
"The Index is composed of various social and economic indicators that reflect the status and well-being of older people. These included productivity and engagement, wellbeing, equity, cohesion, and security."
And guess who came out on top of this list too? Norway, followed by Sweden, the US, the Netherlands, and Japan.
"Interestingly, the Index demonstrates that the United States - despite general problems with inequity and social cohesion - has done well in keeping older Americans financially secure, productive, and engaged," noted Dana Goldman, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Leonard D. Schaeffer Director's Chair at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics.
Norway differs from the U.S. in several important ways: high taxes, national health care, universal education (including college), and lots of free services which have all combined to ensure happiness.
There is no absolute answer to what creates a happy population, but there are a few factors that can be agreed upon; people are happier when they can rely on family, friends and social institutions, thus long-established social norms are important to national happiness.
What makes aging in place, both one's own home as well as one's own country comes down to engagement. We all do better and feel happier when we know we are supported.