Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

27 Mar 2024

The young are not OK

Posted by Michael Keating

There’s a disturbing message in the World Happiness Report 2024. Young people (aged 15-24) in a number of countries are now less happy than older people who are approaching end of life. It probably should not be surprising. The world is full of conflicts. Climate change and environmental decline are wrecking the future for the young. Fewer young people can afford to own a home. [When my wife and I bought our first house many years ago we could afford a nice place in a good Toronto neighbourhood. With current house prices and middle-income salaries, we’d have no hope of buying a similar home today.] Social media have given young people unprecedented ways of connecting but also of being bullied and targeted for extortion.

The latest happiness report, using data from the Gallup World Poll, was prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an international panel of social scientists. Scores are based on individuals’ own assessments of their lives. The survey looked at six key issues: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and freedom from corruption.

Once again, the Nordic countries top the list for happy people. Wealthy countries did not fare that well. Canada came in at 15th and for the young ranked 58th, falling below peers in much poorer countries. By contrast those over 60 in Canada ranked their happiness much higher, comparable to Nordic countries. Why do the Nordics keep ranking high in happiness? They have a good life expectancy and a very strong social safety net. I remember a Dane telling me that the government had raised taxes but had strong public support because people knew the money would be used to keep them secure and healthy in difficult times. By contrast strong political lobbies in countries like the United States fight to lower taxes but this leaves the vulnerable exposed to the risk of crushing health costs and lower life expectancies.

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