Happiness is a human’s general feeling about life, and how pleased with it. Many factors influence people’s happiness from different fields, including work, relationships, individual development, health, and others. Although the latest world ranking of happiness from (Helliwell, Huang & Wang, 2019) shows that, almost all the top 20 locations are western countries, but Canada has decreased from fifth to ninth place while America has declined from 11th to 19th. Some residents in western countries state lower levels of life satisfaction and happiness than generations ago currently.
This essay will analyze the reasons why western people fell less happy than before, including lack of self-esteem, stress from the pursuit of success，increasing rates of addictions such as drugs and gambling, and more network communication less face to face(real-life communication). For each problem, the essay will provide individual and governmental solutions, such as being a volunteer, enjoying the happiness derived from the absolute success and wealth, carrying out harsher punishment and strengthening propaganda and preventive education on drug control, and less digital media using more communication activities in the community.
To begin with lack of self-esteem, it influences the level of wellbeing. Happiness does not only depend on the economy, but that is also to say, rich not mean happiness. In western countries, people generally earn more money than the needs for basic living. Despite great material satisfaction, people feel depressed when they are tired of everyday life, and life seems to have no purpose or meaning. In other words, that is a lack of self-esteem. Self-esteem is an evaluation of individual value as a subjective feeling about self. Research from Neff (2011) has found that self-esteem is related to wellbeing. High self-esteem not only makes people feel good but also promotes long-term happiness. (Danielsen et al., 2012)
Volunteering can be a solution to this problem, that is to say, volunteering jobs bring fun and friends to life, making happiness for people, and being a volunteer to define a purpose and significance for life, healthy self-esteem and find out the value of life. A study from (Whillans et al., 2017)found that volunteer jobs can help reducing depression and increasing life satisfaction. The previous research (Lawton, Moss, Winter, & Hoffman, 2002) also believes that the attitude and behavior of helping people benefit the outcome of life and raise the level of life satisfaction. Therefore, to be a volunteer probably can help the western young people who have low self-esteem to feel good and positively evaluate themselves. The final goal is improving the happiness of them.
The second effect that caused less happiness in western nations is the stress from the pursuit of success and wealth. In developed countries, while the economy is developing at a high level, the collected data from America (Oishi et al., 2011) showed that high incomes are not equal to higher happiness. People can be unhappy in perfect conditions because they want more than their parent’s generation and always aim to keep an achievement. Another study (Borrero, Escobar, Cortés& Maya, 2013) states that when primary needs are satisfied people’s requirements become higher-order and people worried about keeping their achievement. Happiness researchers (Cammeron, 2018)found that this is a kind of conventional thinking and symptomatic of a flawed approach to happiness. As a result of that, more pressure from ambition is the only thing derived from that which makes people unhappy. As a specific example, Dan White(Founder of social enterprise Ninety) and Sebastien Bras (owner of a Michelin’s three-star rating restaurant in France) who report that they feel stressful but unhappy about their success (Cammeron, 2018).
To reduce the stress from the pursuit of success and wealth, people should try to put down the desires to free spirit, enjoy the happiness derived from the particular success and wealth not controlled by it. As Bras, the owner of a Michelin’s three-star rating restaurant in France (Cammeron, 2018), he requested to remove his restaurant from Michelin’s highest honor three-star rating list. He published his decision on Facebook: ‘we wish to be free spirits, to continue the adventure serenely, without tension.’ He released himself from the frame of success and back to a healthy free life. The outcome of that is more happiness and more time with family.
Another adverse effect on happiness in western countries is increasing addictions such as drugs, gambling, and others. The data from the research (Sussman, 2017) shows that, in America, about 7% of young people smoke marijuana; approximately 8% of older teenagers abuse the other illegal drugs;1-3% of adult Americans indulge in gambling. Sussman estimates that the total figure of people suffering from addictions in the USA is around one in two. Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs wrote that the USA is ‘a mass-addiction society’ in recent world happiness report. Sachs believes that these addictions cause considerable unhappiness even depression. (Sachs, 2019)
To solve this serious problem, the role of the government is hugely significant. The government should focus more on reducing illegal drugs and gambling, such as carrying out harsher punishment for those who trade or transport drugs, strengthening propaganda and preventive education on drug and gambling control, continually improve public’s especially students anti-drug ability, and effectively enhance the pertinence and effectiveness of drug prevention education. New Zealand government is a useful model for this solution, according to (The wellbeing budget, 2019), the government will invest around $213.1million for over four years project to strengthen addiction treatment services. The government is supporting the Te Ara Oranga Programme in Northland, which is helping people addicted to drugs.
Finally, more network communication less face to face(real-life communication) contributes to the low level of happiness in western nations. With the development of new information technology in developed nations, communication between modern people has become more complex. People have less emotional communication than before, particularly young generations like to enjoy self-space via the internet and social media. A study from a Canadian university (Yavich, Davidovitch & Frenkel, 2019) said that the use of social media by young people had increased dramatically, and young people spend more and more time on social media. Face-to-face communication is replaced by network communication. According to the research from (Twenge, 2019), people who spend more time on social media and internet games are more likely to be depressed than those who do not use the internet. Comparing to previous generations, recent young people get less happiness from real-life communication (Twenge, 2019).
The probable solution for the final problem is less digital media using and more communication and activities in the community. Parents restrict children’s digital media using at home; the school can create more interesting free communities and encourage students to do more communication activities. There is a piece of authoritative evidence from Ikaria – a Greek island located between Greece and Turkey (60 Minutes Australia, 2019). People in Ikaria live longer than anyone else on the earth, and they have a high level of happiness and almost no stress from life. The most significant key is their social life which is spending the most time with residents. They regularly eat, drink, and dance together without line between generations. This kind of positive communication style might be an excellent example for young generations to change their habit of using the internet and improve their happiness.
In conclusion, recently, the amount number of people in western nations states that they have a lower level of wellbeing than previous generations. The main factors causing this problem include that lack of self-esteem influence the level of wellbeing, the stress from the pursuit of success and wealth, increasing addictions such as drugs, gambling, and others, and more network communication less face to face (real-life communication). This essay provided some probable solutions for these serious problems, and believe that individuals and the government have their responsibilities to raise the level of life satisfaction and happiness.