Happiness: A human issue with global impact

People living in Northern European countries rank the highest in their level of overall happiness. Photo: NASA

SAN DIEGO, September 17, 2013 — People living in Northern European countries rank the highest in their level of overall happiness, according to research conducted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

In their World Happiness Report which was presented to the United Nations this year, the following countries ranked the highest in levels of overall happiness:

1. Denmark
2. Norway
3. Switzerland
4. Netherlands
5. Sweden
6. Canada
7. Finland
8. Austria
9. Iceland
10. Australia

The United States ranked 17th, slightly below Mexico.

The research measured key variables, which included social support, healthy life expectancy at birth, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption.

But what exactly does happiness look like?

Though happiness is defined differently by every individual, Ryan T. Howell, PhD., in his 2013 article, “What is Happiness? Five Characteristics of Happy People,” suggests common elements comprising happiness based on his studies and research:

-Happy people manage their money well.
-Happy people spend their money on life experiences instead of material items.
-Happy people think about the past fondly.
-Happy people “catch” the emotions of others.
-Happy people live in a great community.

Since the “pursuit of happiness” is cited by the American forefathers in the United States Declaration of Independence as one of its guiding principles, it would seem questionable why the United States is falling behind Northern European countries in the overall level of happiness experienced by its citizenry.

It is possible that the 2013 World Happiness Report may provide an answer.

The report suggests that policy-making by any country may need to develop a new paradigm in decision-making and their enactment of legislation by adopting a “well-being approach.” Additionally, “health, transportation, and education are main policy issues,” although they do not, of course, negate other pressing social, economic, and political issues of economics and employment.

The report also reflects upon a critical topic which is not always a welcome one in the United States—mental health. “Mental illness is highly influential—and in the countries we have assessed, the single biggest—determinant of misery.”

“People can be unhappy for many reasons—from poverty to unemployment to family breakdown to physical illness,” the report explains. Also, it points out that approximately 10% of the entire global community has some type of mental illness, including in those countries which are considered to be affluent or wealthy.

The Action for Happiness movement may offer an uplifting message of hope, encouraging those within our global community to embrace the concept of happiness as a prevailing ideal, as well as it being both a personal and social responsibility.

As a 50-year old movement, Action for Happiness brings together those who “want to see a fundamentally different way of life where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others.”

Lord Richard Layard, founder of the Action for Happiness movement, had this to say, “We all want to be happy and we all want the people we love to be happy. Happiness means feeling good about our lives and wanting to go on feeling that way. Unhappiness means feeling bad and wanting things to change.”

It is “Great to Dream,” according to the Action for Happiness, therefore Giving, Relating, Exercising, Appreciating, Trying out, Direction, Resilience, Emotion, Acceptance, and Meaning—are the empowering words which denote their acronym and help to define its meaning.

Action for Happiness is a non-profit foundation that welcomes global participation, regardless of religious or political affiliation. You may contact them at www.actionforhappiness.org for further information, resources, and inspiration.

The late, Former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, had this to say:

Winston Churchill (Bettmann-Corbis/AP Images)

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Every individual within our global community is encouraged to lend their hearts, souls, and minds in the accomplishment of a purposeful and happy life.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities” columnist since 2011, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.

In addition to writing for “Communities,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.

Copyright © 2013 by At Your Home Familycare


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Laurie Edwards-Tate

Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, President and Founder of At Your Home Familycare in San Diego, California, was among the first to recognize the growing need for services allowing individuals to remain independent created by the aging of America including the Baby Boomer generation, now being called the “Silver Tsunami.” It is the Baby Boomers who are rapidly redefining what aging and growing older means and looks like in America today.

Now celebrating its 28th year in business, AYHF is among San Diego County’s Top  Women-Owned Businesses and Fastest Growing Businesses, and enjoys a reputation for upholding the highest possible standards among its employees and its emphasis on customer service.  Edwards-Tate is a valued contributor to the public dialogue on current issues and challenges in the home care industry, and serves in leadership roles on the Home Care Aide Association of America Advisory Board and Private Duty Home Care Association Advisory Board, as well as the Home Care Aide Steering Committee of the California Association for Health Services at Home.

Edwards-Tate is frequently interviewed in the media on healthy aging, caregiving, and health care topics. 

 Follow Laurie and AYHF  at www.atyourhomefamilycare.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/atyourhomefamilycare, and Twitter at @AYHFamilycare

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