THE ‘happiest’ places on earth breed the highest suicide rates, a surprising study has revealed.
The new research, carried out by the University of Warwick, Hamilton College in New York and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, compared life satisfaction statistics with suicide rates in countries across the world as well as in every US state.
The new research found that a range of nations – including Canada, the United States, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland – display high happiness levels and yet also have high suicide rates.
International studies showed that while Greece languishes at the bottom of the happiness scale in the countries it also had the lowest suicide rate, just over 5 per 100,000 people.
At the other end of the scale Switzerland had the fourth highest suicide rate, seven times that of Greece, at 35 per 100,000 – yet was rated the third happiest country.
According to the study the observation had been made previously about individual nations but had not been researched in depth until now.
In order to test the relationship between levels of happiness and rates of suicide within a geographical area, the researchers turned to two very large data sets covering a single country, the United States.
They found that the same pattern emerged across the world’s most powerful country, with the happier areas also suffering from a higher suicide rate.
Utah, ranked 1st in terms of happiness, had the highest suicide rate in the US, while New York had the lowest rate in America despite being only the 45th happiest state.
The researchers believe that the study shows that human beings judge their emotions relative to those around them. So anyone surrounded by happy people who feels depressed will feel worse than before.
Professor Andrew Oswald, a researcher at the University of Warwick, who worked on the study, said: “Discontented people in a happy place may feel particularly harshly treated by life.
“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.”
Professor Stephen Wu, of Hamilton College, said: “This result is consistent with other research that shows that people judge their well-being in comparison to others around them.
“These types of comparison effects have also been shown with regards to income, unemployment, crime, and obesity.”