America Lags Behind in Wellbeing

According to a recent study, the United States may be failing its citizens in certain areas of overall wellbeing.

Photo courtesy of the Social Progress Imperative/Flickr

Photo courtesy of the Social Progress Imperative/Flickr

The Social Progress Imperative, a non-profit agency based in the United States, recently released a list ranking 132 countries based on categories like basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity. Each category included several subcategories and was scored on a scale of 0 to 100. Those three scores were then averaged for an overall score that was used for the rankings.

The United States was ranked 16th behind countries like New Zealand, which came in first, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, and others. With an overall score of 82.8, the US was 5.4 points behind New Zealand.

Where the U.S. struggled the most, according to the report, was in the area of foundations of wellbeing, where it received a score of 76.  Foundations of wellbeing had subcategories like access to basic knowledge (education), access to information and communication (technology and news), health and wellness, and ecosystem sustainability.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the U.S. scored the worst in the latter two categories, coming in 70th in health and wellness and 69th in sustainability. While many factors contributed to an overall low score in these categories, there are a few obvious areas where the United States scored exceptionally poorly. America’s suicide rate was comparatively high (11 deaths per every hundred thousand), as was the number of deaths that could be attributed to air pollution (18 deaths per every hundred thousand). But the U.S. received its worst score in the obesity rate category, ranking 125th with an obesity rate of over 30%.

Photo courtesy of the Social Progress Imperative/Flickr

Photo courtesy of the Social Progress Imperative/Flickr

In sustainability, the U.S. received middling to low scores in the areas of greenhouse gas emissions, water withdrawals, and biodiversity/habitat. The U.S. came in 67th in terms of protecting its wildlife, and 85th for water withdrawal, and the study suggests that the significant droughts that have affected the American west the past few years will remain a continuing problem. While many in government have tried to make climate change a top issue, there has been strong resistance to many of the proposed measures to combat it.

However, according to the report, the U.S. is effective at providing for the basic needs of most of its citizens, and excels in some areas, especially in the opportunity area of the rankings. America came in first in access to advanced education and also had the greatest number of globally ranked universities. The U.S. also scored highly in the areas of political rights, freedom of speech, private property rights. And while there is lots of room for improvement in many areas, such as equality of women, racial discrimination, and inclusion of minorities, the overall high scores in the opportunity section suggest that despite the work left to do, the United States still presents its citizens with many possibilities.

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Grace Denny