This weekend while reading an article on a completely different topic, a startling statistic was cited that has been swirling in my brain; I decided to do a little research. I am a statistician at heart, geeked-out by looking up all these statistical research projects, though their projection is sombre.
What I initially read was this: a group of statisticians took basic sociological metrics for 17 Western countries around the world - suicide, teen pregnancy, STD and abortion rates, the proportion of people in jail, income gaps between rich and poor, alcohol and drug consumption - and computed a weighted metric on a scale of 1-10. The value was used to gauge the overall health of a country, with one being the most dysfunctional and 10 the least. Sweden came out the highest at 7.1, Japan came in a with a respectable 6, and the surprising bit is that of all the countries evaluated, the U.S. came in the lowest at 2.7.
I knew things weren't great, and I expected the US to come in low ... but last? Last. Just reading the words above that compiled the metric make me uncomfortable, let alone the fact that we have scary-high prevalence of them all. I think in part we beleive while living in the US, surrounded in our micro-cosm with little experience in other global societies that "that's just the way it is" ... young girls will get pregnant, boys will shoot each other and go to jail ... that's just life. Well friends, no it isn't ... that is life in the US.
I began Googling for global "health metrics", which yielded results around people's general physical health, article after article on studies conducted to determine the "top 10" healthiest countries ... NONE of which have the U.S.A. listed. An article on Reuters suggests "Americans spend twice as much as residents of other developed countries on healthcare, but get lower quality, less efficiency, and the least equitable system."
And we have all seen studies on the happiest countries. The US is always out-performed by the Scandinavian countries and the lands down under. In a recent study from Forbes, the US is 12th (slipping out of the top 10 vs. the prior year). Fortunately we are not last here.
There are statistical evaluations by Yale University and the World Economic Forum that rate a country's Environmental Performance Index ... or how sensitive your policies are to environmental conditions. Of 132 world countries evaluated the US came in at 49. Ok, not last, but there are 48 other countries in the world that have more impressive stances on environmental policies ... countries like Slovakia, Albania, Columbia, Malaysia Slovenia ... for comparison, the U.K. ranked 9th. Can you even name 48 countries? Because that is how many beat us.
Now, these are all statistical research studies subject to individual biases, methodology concerns, self-reporting issues, etc. but most are legit scientific journals and the overall theme is strong. On parameters of social trauma, physical health, happiness and environmental consciousness the U.S.A. ranks pretty darn bad. And I suspect if I took the time to look up the economic outlook, debt, education, etc. I could find some more negativity to load up on this dismal pile.
So, it makes me question why the immigration rate to the US is still so high, with 4.6 people coming into the country for every one that leaves ... 1M people each year gain their legal residency status in the US, with the majority of immigration to the US continuing to be Mexico, China, and India. None of which ranked higher than the US in any of the studies I reviewed. Hmm. Let's jut say the immigration rate from Norway to the U.S. is not something we will need to concern ourselves with.
I don't know what my conclusion is here ... it is not a black or white issue. One could easily argue that lower social equality and happiness are simply the price you pay for being the land of the free, allowing those with less to enter in and be cared for. Maybe we are happy with that. But when standing from the outside looking in, that wonderful home that we fight for the right to keep has some pretty big bruises and scars that we as a society must pay attention to. Let's pray the immigration rate doesn't go down as more proof we've awoken from America's dream.
Be conscious, look around you, don't simply witness, reality shows are becoming our reality.