Worldwide surveys have consistently ranked the Scandinavian countries — with their generous family-leave policies, low crime, free health care, rich economies and, yes, high income taxes — as the happiest places on earth. But this happiness has always been accompanied by a paradox: the happiest countries also seem to have the highest suicide rates.
Is it the long, dark winters facing Finland and Denmark that cause the problem? Or some kind of Nordic depression gene? Or none of the above? A new study suggests the problem is not specific to Scandinavia, finding that high suicide rates accompany high rates of happiness in comparisons of U.S. states as well.
Economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the University of Warwick in England and Hamilton College in New York examined life satisfaction scores provided by 2.3 million Americans state by state, and comparing these with state suicide rates. Utah, for example, ranks highest in life satisfaction — but also has the ninth highest suicide rate in the U.S. The No. 2 happiest state is Hawaii, which comes in fifth for suicides. New York, in contrast, comes in 45th in life satisfaction but has America’s lowest suicide rate
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