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Americans 17th Happiest Citizens; Europe Tops, Africa the Pits

By Michael Mullins   |  

Americans are the 17th happiest people around the globe, according to a new report by the United Nations.

In the second annual World Happiness Report, which was released on Monday, citizens from 156 countries were evaluated on their overall satisfaction with life, the highest levels of happiness being found in northern Europe.

Denmark was the happiest nation in the world, followed by Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden, according to the report.

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While the top five happiest nations are all European, the lowest ranked are all in Africa, those being Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Benin and Togo, USA Today notes.

"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," report co-editor Jeffrey Sachs said in a statement. Sachs, an economics professor at Harvard University, is also the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York.

The report was produced by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and took into account the population's economic conditions, degree of freedom, life expectancy, and social support, among other factors.

One reason the USA fell from 11th to 17th place compared to the year prior is due to "a relatively mediocre life expectancy," Sachs wrote in an e-mail to USA Today. Sachs went on to point out perceived declines in "freedom to make life choices" in the U.S., which he said might be linked to poverty or unemployment.

In 17th place, the U.S. lagged behind Canada (6th), Australia (10th), Israel (11th), the United Arab Emirates (14th), and Mexico (16th). The land of the free and home of the brave did however beat some of its Western European allies, including the United Kingdom, which ranked 22nd happiest nations and France, which took 25th place.

In Asia, Japan ranked 43rd happiest nation, while China ranked 93rd, according to the report.

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Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are also major contributors to unhappiness around the world, according to the report, which points out that in even wealthy nations, less than 30 percent of those show suffer from mental illnesses are in treatment.

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