The happiest countries and happiest US states tend to have the most depression and the highest suicide rates. Why would this be?
Recent research has confirmed a little known and seemingly puzzling fact: many happy countries have unusually high rates of suicide. This observation has been made from time to time about individual nations, especially in the case of Denmark (which was recently voted the world’s happiest country). This new research found that a range of nations–including Canada, the United States, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland–each display relatively high happiness levels and yet also have high suicide rates.
Comparing US states in this way produces the same result. States with people who are generally more satisfied with their lives tended to have higher suicide rates than those with lower average levels of life satisfaction. For example, data shows that Utah is ranked first in life-satisfaction, but has the 9th highest suicide rate. Meanwhile, New York was ranked 45th in life satisfaction, yet had the lowest suicide rate in the country.
States with a high number of Mexican-Americans are also high in suicides. Psychologist Luis Zayas says, "Latinas have the highest rate of suicide attempt among teens in comparison to white girls or African-American girls." All this could have something to do with people’s access to the tools of suicide, such as guns.
But researchers have other theories, such as the fact that if you’re in a happy place, you NOITCE your own unhappiness more. Andrew Oswald says, "Discontented people in a happy place may feel particularly harshly treated by life. Those dark contrasts may in turn increase the risk of suicide. If humans are subject to mood swings, the lows of life may thus be most tolerable in an environment in which other humans are unhappy."
Researcher Stephen Wu agrees and says, "This result is consistent with other research that shows that people judge their well-being in comparison to others around them. These types of comparison effects have also been shown with regards to income, unemployment, crime, and obesity."
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