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The Happiest Countries in the World: Where Does America Rank?

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There was a time when the words America and happy were almost synonymous. My, how quickly things can change and not for the better. But, then again, does that even matter? Well, in fact, it matters a lot because when the people of a country are happy, when they feel good about their lot in life and the society in which they live, they are much more productive, and their country benefits greatly as a result.

A study was recently conducted by the OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international economic organization comprised of 34 countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. It is a forum of countries committed to promote democracy and the market economy.

The study measured the overall well-being of people in 36 major countries of the world (the original 34 plus Russia and Brazil) based on 11 key measurement factors: housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance.

The main point of the Better Life Index, as the article states is: "There's been a lot of debate lately on measuring the well-being of societies -- is wealth all that matters, or should we be looking at other things, like the balance between work and the rest of our lives? The Index aims to involve citizens in this debate, and to empower them to become more informed and engaged in the policy-making process that shapes all our lives."

This is an annual study and the results always seem to be about the same. Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland always seem to be ranked at or near the top of the list. What is it about these Scandinavian countries that make their people so happy and content? What's their formula for success?

Well let's analyze this situation and try to come up with a meaningful answer to that question? What makes these nations so different, why do they stand out above the rest of these other countries? Well, right off we might say that these are all very peaceful countries that use the wealth and resources that they possess for positive, constructive endeavors that benefit all the people that live within their borders.

So now let's expand on that thought and list some of the more important policies, actions and endeavors of these countries that make them unique and different.

When we look at the countries that rate the highest, we see that education is a top priority in all of them. Many of these countries, notably Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, France and Germany, provide some form of free higher education for students entering college, vocational, or technical schools. When studies of academic excellence are done these are the countries that are consistently ranked at the top. As this study indicates, the U.S. lags behind as it is rated the 21st nation out of the 36. That should be very disturbing to the America people, and it may be difficult to accept, but it's reality.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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