Americans Are Unhappy And The Opioid Epidemic May Be A Factor

By Beth Leipholtz 03/25/19
For the third straight year, the U.S. has dropped in the rankings of the World Happiness Report.
American man holding a picture of a sad face

The United States is now the 19th happiest country on Earth, its ranking falling for the third consecutive year. 

This is according to the most recent World Happiness Report, released on Wednesday (March 20) or the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness.

The Washington Post reports that the seventh annual report surveyed 156 different countries and took into account six factors: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, the freedom to make life choices, social support, generosity and perceptions of corruption.

The top 10 countries in the report were Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria.

“We finished 19th on the list behind Belgium,” Jimmy Kimmel said on his late night show. “The people who feel the need to put mayonnaise on their french fries are happier than we are. Cheer up, everybody.”

While the report doesn’t specify why each country ranked where it did, the authors of the report have speculated in a news release that substance use disorder and the opioid epidemic contributed to America’s ranking.

“This year’s report provides sobering evidence of how addictions are causing considerable unhappiness and depression in the U.S.,” said Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University professor and the author of the "Addiction and Unhappiness in America" section of the report. 

“The compulsive pursuit of substance abuse and addictive behaviors is causing severe unhappiness. Government, business, and communities should use these indicators to set new policies aimed at overcoming these sources of unhappiness,” Sachs added.

Sachs also noted that the results of the report serve as building blocks for countries moving forward. 

“The World Happiness Report, together with the Global Happiness and Policy Report offer the world’s governments and individuals the opportunity to rethink public policies as well as individual life choices, to raise happiness and wellbeing,” Sachs said. “We are in an era of rising tensions and negative emotions (as shown in Chapter 2) and these findings point to underlying challenges that need to be addressed.”

According to the news release, this year’s report specifically honed in on happiness and the community, taking into account how technology, social norms, conflict and government policies have played a role in shaping each country. 

“The world is a rapidly changing place,” Professor John Helliwell, co-editor of the report, said in the news release. “How communities interact with each other whether in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods or on social media has profound effects on world happiness.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.