EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 8, 2013

Column: Aussie asks: What makes U.S. so unhappy anyway?

One of the more irritating popular songs of recent decades was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. Just mentioning the song risks putting the simple lyric in your head, to be repeated over and over until you worry it will never end and you will never be happy.

Sorry, but that song is pertinent to the topic today — which, you will be happy to know, is happiness.

And why not? Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence put the pursuit of happiness next to life and liberty among the inalienable rights endowed by the Creator.

So how is our pursuit of happiness working out? Unhappily, not too well.

In a recent survey, the prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development put the United States at only No. 6 among the world’s developed economies in its Better Life Index, which measures happiness criteria such as jobs, income, housing, health, the environment and life satisfaction.

No. 6! That’s not happy news. More alarming, Australia ranked No. 1, for the third year running. Crickey! Sweden was No. 2, but young immigrants to Sweden immediately cast doubt on the survey’s accuracy by rioting for several days. If you had to eat fermented herrings you might riot, too.

On hearing the news, an office wag posed the question: Reg, did Australia become so happy because you left? It is possible, but that raises another question: Did America become so unhappy because I came?

Whatever my goings and comings have wrought, I’m in a unique position to judge the state of comparative happiness across the ocean. Let us consider first what makes the people Down Under so darn happy.

It is true that Australia has weathered the global financial crisis well up until this point. By the way, Australians universally call that crisis the GFC because Aussie words are often shortened, just in case the alphabet runs out of letters. So if rellos (relatives) come over to watch the footy (football) on TV, they may discuss the GFC.

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