Happy kids on the beachBoys express their happiness by performing acrobatics on the beach in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: hassi/Flickr)

Money still can't buy happiness, UN study says

Mental health over wealth, says World Happiness Report.

Money can buy a lot of things. Tickets to a Rolling Stones concert, multiple boxes of Franzia, cheesy bread … but it cannot buy happiness, at least not according to the latest  World Happiness Report. The annual study commissioned by the United Nations ranked the happiness of 156 countries and found that mental health was a more key determinant in a country’s happiness than wealth.

The survey used a “life evaluation” score to measure factors including gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, life expectancy, having someone to count on, and perceived freedom to make life choices (e.g. no politicians forbidding you from dressing as a sexy crayon on Halloween). Denmark, Norway and Switzerland topped the happiness heap, with Israel close behind at 11th place. The United States ranked 17th while Luxembourg, the richest country in Europe, came in 19th place. You were right, Biggie. “Mo money, mo problems.”

Couple walks along the beach in Tel AvivA happy couple walks along the beach in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Prtasov AN/Shutterstock)

The report found that mental wellness, not poverty, was the single biggest “determinant of individual happiness.” The authors of the study suggest that governments seeking to improve the happiness of their people should spend a higher proportion of their health budgets on mental illness and they hope that their findings will guide policymakers to take the priorities of citizens into account when making decisions. Jeffrey Sachs, the director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which published the report, explained, “There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being.”

Woman reading as she floats in Dead SeaStress-free and totally relaxed, a woman floats in the Dead Sea while she reads a book. (Photo: vicspacewalker/Shutterstock)

So what makes Israel so happy? Israel’s joyful score could be correlated to its commitment to mental health care reform. A plan was instituted this summer that will transfer responsibility for community mental health care from the Health Ministry to the HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) by 2015, resulting in 39 new clinics, an estimated rise of 40% of adults treated in mental health clinics and an expected 70% rise in minors treated in mental health clinics.

Israel’s happiness could also have something to do with its relaxing beaches that happen to allow you to drink freely, its liberal social policies, the fact that it advocates for positive body images, or that it encourages innovation and creative thinking.

How does your college stack up in terms of student contentedness? Check out Unigo’s survey of the happiest college campuses to see if you agree with the results.

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