Opinion | It shouldn’t be this hard to live

By Rachel Soloff, Opinions Editor

The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. What is one of the leading factors in developing heart disease? Long-term stress, something that has rapidly increased over the past couple of years. 

Stress can come from a multitude of factors, but one reason that many Americans cite is financial and economic instability. With rapid inflation, a housing market that fluctuates so often it leads to homelessness, and insane debt from college and other loans, there is a lot to be stressed about in the United States. 

The craziest part is that this is not how it has to be. Other countries seemed to have addressed their economic issues, and their people have come out happier because of it. The United States ranks 16th on the World Happiness Index, trailing behind countries like Finland, Ireland, Canada and many more. 

The United States is lagging behind its peers in happiness because economic hurdles prevent people from doing the things that actually make them happy. When working multiple jobs or stressing a majority of the time about finances, they don’t have the opportunity to live life on their own terms. It shouldn’t be this hard to just enjoy life and to have the time and space to be with the people we love. 

In the United States, many seem to follow the “bootstraps” narrative, something originally used to depict the impossible, meaning they believe that if someone is struggling financially, it’s the individual’s laziness that’s to blame. This is far from the truth — nearly 7.8 million people hold multiple jobs and still struggle to pay the bills. Many of these people spend hours away from loved ones in order to provide for them, working long and hard for little pay as our minimum wage is extremely low. 

Unlike most countries, the United States government doesn’t have to review the minimum wage statute every two years and adjust it to rising prices. This lack of care for people and their finances leads to even more stress and unhappiness.

One of the most frustrating parts of this is that other countries similar to ours don’t live this way — and their people are happier than ours because of it. Other countries that scored higher on the World Happiness Index, such as Denmark, have different laws regarding labor and minimum wage. The model that the Danish use is one of collective bargaining in which unions and employers operate in a decentralized system that rarely involves government, except if negotiations break down. 

Workers in Denmark can confront their bosses and change their conditions from within. While the United States does also have a rich history of unions, collective bargaining is not the norm here. When there are systems like this that confront conditions that make it harder for people to live and earn money, the people become much happier. The Danish model shows that life doesn’t always have to be so taxing for such little money.

Another factor preventing many Americans from living a happy and fulfilling life is the constant stress of finding a place to live and keeping it. It’s no secret that the housing market is fickle. With the rise of rent costs as well as housing being less available as investment firms buy up housing to convert into Airbnbs, the constant struggle over where to live can be extremely taxing on the average American. The threat of becoming homeless — especially as other countries seem to have combated the problem in some capacity — is one that no one should feel. Housing is a human right.

In places like Finland, which scored high on the World Happiness Index, housing is a guaranteed right. The government realized that there was a large homeless population forming, despite efforts since the 1980s to create short-term shelters. When the problem increased, the Finnish government made efforts to create long-term solutions. They established a foundation to create more housing before emphasizing the need for a job, which tends to be the typical attitude towards homelessness. They did this because they knew the mental toll that homelessness takes on people — they were caring for well-being first by creating something permanent for people who blacked that stability. 

One way people try to escape the burdens of financial issues in their careers is by going to college or other forms of higher education in hopes of getting access to higher paying jobs after graduating. In fact, those who pursue higher education tend to be happier people due to having higher paying careers. Despite this, the price of college has become astronomical, making it inaccessible for some. Many people have to take out loans in order to pay for their higher education. The United States seems to be unique in this fact. 

Countries like Iceland and Norway — which both scored in the top five for the World Happiness Index — offer free higher education which allows people to choose the field they wish to study without fear of a large price tag. And Canada, another high scorer on the World Happiness Index, offers college at more affordable prices. So if the U.S. government is worried about making college completely free, they could at least regulate costs to make education more accessible to people so they don’t have the burden of loans.

This all being said, the best parts of life are the ones in which people can enjoy their time. If people are constantly worried about their finances or working all hours of the day to provide for their families, they miss out on the happiest moments in life. The most frustrating part is that it can change — we can make the United States a happier and better place to live.


Rachel Soloff writes primarily about the entertainment industry and how lame antisemites are. Write to her at [email protected].