US residents report falling happiness — except those in this age group

The U.S. dropped from 15th to 23rd in Gallup's latest "World Happiness Report," marking the first time the nation has fallen out of the top 20 since the report was first published in 2012. But researchers point to their separate rankings by age group, which indicate generational divides. 

The report, released March 20 on the United Nations International Day of Happiness, is based on a survey of more than 100,000 people in more than 140 countries. Over a three-year period (2021 to 2023), Gallup asked respondents to rate their lives on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best possible life.

Here is are the top 25 in the overall ranking for the world's "happiest" countries alongside their average life evaluation scores:

1. Finland (7.741)

2. Denmark (7.583)

3. Iceland (7.525)

4. Sweden (7.344)

5. Israel (7.341)

6. Netherlands (7.319)

7. Norway (7.302)

8. Luxembourg (7.122)

9. Switzerland (7.060)

10. Australia (7.057)

11. New Zealand (7.029)

12. Costa Rica (6.955)

13. Kuwait (6.951)

14. Austria (6.905)

15. Canada (6.900)

16. Belgium (6.894)

17. Ireland (6.838)

18. Czechia (6.822)

19. Lithuania (6.818)

20. United Kingdom (6.749)

21. Slovenia (6.743)

22. United Arab Emirates (6.733)

23. United States (6.725)

24. Germany (6.719)

25. Mexico (6.678)

Researchers said the drop in the overall ranking for the U.S. was driven by a large drop in the well-being of Americans under 30 years old. The country comes in 62nd for this age group. 

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, PhD, director of Oxford's Wellbeing Research Centre, professor of economics and behavioral science at Saïd Business School, and an editor of the World Happiness Report, said in a news release:

"Once again the World Happiness Report uncovers some special empirical insights at the cutting edge of the wellbeing research frontier. Piecing together the available data on the wellbeing of children and adolescents around the world, we documented disconcerting drops especially in North America and Western Europe. To think that, in some parts of the world, children are already experiencing the equivalent of a mid-life crisis demands immediate policy action."

But there is a standout finding among generations: The U.S. ranks 10th in the 60 and above age group.

Dr. De Neve explained to NPR that in this age group, "The big pressures in life, [such as] having small children, a mortgage to pay, and work, have likely tapered off a bit."

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