The USA apparently has poor well-being

Start here with the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index, then read this summary post on NPR. It’s all based on 146K interviews around five core areas: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical. This is a little bit — not a ton — like what Blue Zones is doing around living longer.

Here are the top 10 nations in the world according to the metrics used:

1. Panama — 53
2. Costa Rica — 47.6
3. Puerto Rico — 45.8
4. Switzerland — 39.4
5. Belize — 38.9
6. Chile — 38.7
7. Denmark — 37
8. Guatemala — 36.3
9. (tie) Austria — 35.6
9. (tie) Mexico — 35.6

You might look at that and scoff, because it seems like a lot of Caribbean/Latin American vacation spots … and I mean, that’s great and all, but can people really live in those places successfully, especially if they’re accustomed to a more “first-world” viewpoint?

Well, that’s the entire thing. First of all, you can prove anything with any metric/stat. People don’t really get that (except maybe Bill Gates), but you can. So any study or research you see, you have a right to question — same with this. Here’s the thing that makes this a bit different, though: this is really all about adjusting your mindset on what’s important, which is very hard for a lot of people, and especially for Americans. Think about all the new happiness research we’ve had come out recently.

If you’re a more visual person, look at this:

Gallup Well-Being IndexUSA isn’t even top 10 in anything! And then there’s this amazing quote:

“Subjective well-being does not necessarily correlate with GDP.”

That’s the essence of the American problem in studies like this. We chase the bottom line as a country. All about those deliverables, baby! When you chase money — which makes sense, because in a capitalism, you do need money to live — you sometimes forego other things, like “real social connection” or “going for a walk/to the gym” or “eating better.” You know what I mean? Life is a complicated series of opportunity costs, if we’re being totally honest. Americans often prioritize the money one and have to sacrifice a few other key ones. Some nations do less of that, so maybe the houses and roads aren’t as beautiful … but the overall quality of your world might be a little bit better.

Ted Bauer

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