Who’s happy, who’s not: Norway tops list, US falls

WASHINGTON (AP) — If you want to go to your happy place, you need more than cash. A winter coat helps — and a sense of community.

A new report shows Norway is the happiest country on Earth, Americans are getting sadder, and it takes more than just money to be happy.

Norway vaulted to the top slot in the World Happiness Report despite the plummeting price of oil, a key part of its economy. Income in the United States has gone up over the past decade, but happiness is declining.

The United States was 14th in the latest ranking, down from No. 13 last year, and over the years Americans steadily have been rating themselves less happy.

“It’s the human things that matter. If the riches make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy relationship between people, is it worth it?” asked John Helliwell, the lead author of the report and an economist at the University of British Columbia in Canada (ranked No. 7). “The material can stand in the way of the human.”

Woman cross country skiing in Lapland Finland in sunset
A new international report from economists ranks world countries on happiness. The rankings are based on income and life expectancy figures, along with how people rate social support, personal freedom, corruption and generosity. Together it is used to generate a happiness score from 1 to 10. Here are the top 5 happiest countries. 5. Finland, 7.47 Finland comes in as the fifth happiest country in the world, according to the world happiness report. The top 10 list includes all the Scandinavian countries. (Thinkstock)
Famous Zermatt village with the peak of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps
4. Switzerland, 7.49 Pictured is the famous Zermatt village with the peak of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. (Thinkstock)
Sick people healing in the blue mineral waters of a geothermal spa in Iceland
3. Iceland, 7.5 The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a geothermal spa and is one of the most visited attractions in the country. This tiny nation has a population of just over 300,000. (Thinkstock)
Blurred people going by bike in Copenhagen, with Christiansborg palace on background. Many persons prefer biking instead of taking car or bus to move around the city. Urban lifestyle concept.
2. Denmark, 7.52 Bikers ride outside the Christiansborg Palace, the seat of parliament, in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. This country where Lego was invented ranks No. 2 in the happiest countries in the world.   (Thinkstock)
Young tourist woman is feeling free and sitting on the top of the mounting and looking at a beautiful landscape
1. Norway, 7.54 Norway moved from No. 4 to the top spot in the report’s rankings, which combine economic, health and polling data compiled by economists that are averaged over three years from 2014 to 2016.   (Thinkstock)
A mother reaches out to hold the hand of her young daughter, as they walk home after a church service in the village of Rwinkwavu, near to Akagera National Park, in Rwanda Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
To compile the list of the happiest and saddest countries, rankings are based on income and life expectancy figures, along with how people rate social support, personal freedom, corruption and generosity. Together it is used to generate a happiness score from 1 to 10. Here are the saddest countries according to the report: 151. Rwanda, 3.47 A mother reaches out to hold the hand of her young daughter, as they walk home after a church service in the village of Rwinkwavu, near to Akagera National Park, in Rwanda Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
FILE -- This Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 file photo, hundreds of Syrians mingle amid rubble before going out of town to buy food and other essential materials as they wait in line at a military checkpoint in the town of Beit Sahm, south of the capital, Damascus, Syria. A new report by Physicians for Human Rights accuses the Syrian government of "slow-motion slaughter" of unknown numbers of Syrians trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas by willfully denying them food and health care, which it calls a war crime. (AP Photo, File)
152. Syria, 3.46 FILE — This Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 file photo, hundreds of Syrians mingle amid rubble before going out of town to buy food and other essential materials as they wait in line at a military checkpoint in the town of Beit Sahm, south of the capital, Damascus, Syria. A new report by Physicians for Human Rights accuses the Syrian government of “slow-motion slaughter” of unknown numbers of Syrians trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas by willfully denying them food and health care, which it calls a war crime. (AP Photo, File)
Supporters of opposition presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who heads the four main opposition parties, attend their closing campaign rally in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Tanzanians vote Sunday in landmark elections that could end the dominance of the ruling party, which has held power for decades but faces a united opposition buoyed by growing discontent over official corruption. (AP Photo/Khalfan Said)
153. Tanzania, 3.35 Supporters of opposition presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who heads the four main opposition parties, attend their closing campaign rally in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Tanzanians vote Sunday in landmark elections that could end the dominance of the ruling party, which has held power for decades but faces a united opposition buoyed by growing discontent over official corruption. (AP Photo/Khalfan Said)
Burundians carry their belongings on bicycles in Bujumbura, Burundi, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Carrying their prized possessions, scores of people fled Burundi’s capital Saturday before a looming security crackdown that has left many predicting more bloody violence ahead.   (AP Photo)
154. Burundi, 2.91 Burundians carry their belongings on bicycles in Bujumbura, Burundi, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Carrying their prized possessions, scores of people fled Burundi’s capital Saturday before a looming security crackdown that has left many predicting more bloody violence ahead. (AP Photo)
Supporters of Presidential candidate Anicet Georges Dologuele are pushed back by soldiers as they wait for their candidate at the national stadium in  Bangui, Central African Republic, Friday Feb. 12, 2016. Two former prime ministers,  Faustin Archange Touadera and  Dologuele, are running neck-and-neck in the second round of presidential elections Sunday Feb. 14  to end years of violence pitting Muslims against Christians in the Central African Republic. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
155. Central African Republic, 2.91 Supporters of Presidential candidate Anicet Georges Dologuele are pushed back by soldiers as they wait for their candidate at the national stadium in Bangui, Central African Republic, Friday Feb. 12, 2016. Two former prime ministers, Faustin Archange Touadera and Dologuele, are running neck-and-neck in the second round of presidential elections Sunday Feb. 14 to end years of violence pitting Muslims against Christians in the Central African Republic. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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Woman cross country skiing in Lapland Finland in sunset
Famous Zermatt village with the peak of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps
Sick people healing in the blue mineral waters of a geothermal spa in Iceland
Blurred people going by bike in Copenhagen, with Christiansborg palace on background. Many persons prefer biking instead of taking car or bus to move around the city. Urban lifestyle concept.
Young tourist woman is feeling free and sitting on the top of the mounting and looking at a beautiful landscape
A mother reaches out to hold the hand of her young daughter, as they walk home after a church service in the village of Rwinkwavu, near to Akagera National Park, in Rwanda Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
FILE -- This Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 file photo, hundreds of Syrians mingle amid rubble before going out of town to buy food and other essential materials as they wait in line at a military checkpoint in the town of Beit Sahm, south of the capital, Damascus, Syria. A new report by Physicians for Human Rights accuses the Syrian government of "slow-motion slaughter" of unknown numbers of Syrians trapped in besieged and hard-to-reach areas by willfully denying them food and health care, which it calls a war crime. (AP Photo, File)
Supporters of opposition presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who heads the four main opposition parties, attend their closing campaign rally in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Tanzanians vote Sunday in landmark elections that could end the dominance of the ruling party, which has held power for decades but faces a united opposition buoyed by growing discontent over official corruption. (AP Photo/Khalfan Said)
Burundians carry their belongings on bicycles in Bujumbura, Burundi, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Carrying their prized possessions, scores of people fled Burundi’s capital Saturday before a looming security crackdown that has left many predicting more bloody violence ahead.   (AP Photo)
Supporters of Presidential candidate Anicet Georges Dologuele are pushed back by soldiers as they wait for their candidate at the national stadium in  Bangui, Central African Republic, Friday Feb. 12, 2016. Two former prime ministers,  Faustin Archange Touadera and  Dologuele, are running neck-and-neck in the second round of presidential elections Sunday Feb. 14  to end years of violence pitting Muslims against Christians in the Central African Republic. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Studying happiness may seem frivolous, but serious academics have long been calling for more testing about people’s emotional well-being, especially in the United States. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report recommending that federal statistics and surveys, which normally deal with income, spending, health and housing, include a few extra questions on happiness because it would lead to better policy that affects people’s lives.

Norway moved from No. 4 to the top spot in the report’s rankings, which combine economic, health and polling data compiled by economists that are averaged over three years from 2014 to 2016. Norway edged past previous champ Denmark, which fell to second. Iceland, Switzerland and Finland round out the top 5.

“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, who wasn’t part of the global scientific study that came out with the rankings.

“What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good,” Wiking said.

Still, you have to have some money to be happy, which is why most of the bottom countries are in desperate poverty. But at a certain point extra money doesn’t buy extra happiness, Helliwell and others said.

Central African Republic fell to last on the happiness list, and is joined at the bottom by Burundi, Tanzania, Syria and Rwanda.

The report ranks 155 countries. The economists have been ranking countries since 2012, but the data used goes back farther so the economists can judge trends.

The rankings are based on gross domestic product per person, healthy life expectancy with four factors from global surveys. In those surveys, people give scores from 1 to 10 on how much social support they feel they have if something goes wrong, their freedom to make their own life choices, their sense of how corrupt their society is and how generous they are.

While most countries were either getting happier or at least treading water, America’s happiness score dropped 5 percent over the past decade. Venezuela and the Central African Republic slipped the most over the past decade. Nicaragua and Latvia increased the most.

Study co-author and economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University said in a phone interview from Oslo that the sense of community, so strong in Norway, is deteriorating in the United States.

“We’re becoming more and more mean spirited. And our government is becoming more and more corrupt. And inequality is rising,” Sachs said, citing research and analysis he conducted on America’s declining happiness for the report. “It’s a long-term trend and conditions are getting worse.”

University of Maryland’s Carol Graham, who wasn’t a study author but did review some chapters, said the report mimics what she sees in the American rural areas, where her research shows poor whites have a deeper lack of hope, which she connects to rises in addictions to painkillers and suicide among that group.

“There is deep misery in the heartland,” Graham, author of the book “The Pursuit of Happiness,” wrote in an email.

Happiness — and doing what you love — is more important than politicians think, said study author Helliwell. He rated his personal happiness a 9 on a 1-to- 10 scale.

It baffles Norwegian comedian Eia.

“Why can’t Americans who are the brightest people in the world do the same thing as we do to make the happiest people?” Eia asked. “I don’t get it.”

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