Researchers: A Dark Truth About the Happiest Places On Earth

The happiest place on earth is harboring a dark secret, according to the results of a new study.

British researchers have found that the happiest countries and the happiest U.S. states tend to have the highest suicide rates, confirming a little known and seemingly puzzling fact: many happy countries have unusually high rates of suicide.

These countries include places like the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland.

Looking solely at the U.S., researchers found similar results.  States with people who are generally more satisfied with their lives tend to have higher suicide rates than those with lower levels of life satisfaction.

Take Utah, which is ranked first in life satisfaction, for instance, but has the 9th highest suicide rate.  Then compare it to New York, which ranks 45th in life satisfaction, but has the lowest suicide rate in the country.

Even adjusting for age, gender, race, education, income, marital status and employment status yielded the same general findings.

Researchers believe this counter intuitive phenomena could be due to social comparison within communities.

“Discontented people in a happy place may feel particularly harshly treated by life,” said Andrew Oswald, a professor from the University of Warkwick, in a press release.  “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.”

The study will be published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.