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Americans Are Wealthier Than Most, But Not As Happy

How America ranks in happiness, wealth, life expectancy, work ethics and more.

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June 7th, 2012

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Americans Are Wealthier Than Most, But Not As Happy

Are Americans happier than citizens in other countries?

Well, it depends on how you measure happiness.

New research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that we’re ahead of the game when it comes to wealth, behind the curve when it comes to life expectancy—and wait till you hear how we stack up on work-life balance.

There are also at least three countries whose citizens profess to be happier than we are.

This data comes from the Better Life Index, a ranking system from the newly established OECD which measures happiness levels in 34 countries, based on how their citizens feel about things like earnings, housing, their community—and even how many good and bad things happen to them per day.

And the Better Life Index actually isn’t the first of its kind.

We’ll show you how the first “Happiness Index” came about–and how your life in the United States stacks up.

MORE FROM LEARNVEST: Reasons Why TV Is Ruining Your Life

What Is a Happiness Index, Anyway?

The Gross National Happiness (GNH) index was developed in the 1970s by the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan (it’s half the size of Indiana) to inspire government initiatives that would improve its citizens’ lives.

The country’s index evaluates 33 indicators within nine larger categories like psychological wellbeing, living standards, education, health, ecological and cultural diversity and community vitality. It’s administered to all of Bhutan’s residents, even those living in the most remote areas.

Why a happiness index? Because GDP or gross domestic product—which typically measures a country’s rate of economic growth—doesn’t really tell you how that impacts the life of its citizens.

And once word got out that Bhutan had created a way to quantify happiness, other countries jumped on the GNH train.

In 2008, former French President Sarkozy instituted the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. In 2008, Victoria, British Columbia created the Greater Victoria Happiness Index Partnership. And most notably for us, last year the Paris-based OECD, developed the Better Life Index  to measure well-being in 34 countries.

MORE FROM LEARNVEST: 8 Things You Think Are Good for Your Money…That Aren’t 

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