New York City has been declared America’s unhappiest city by researchers from the University of British Columbia and Harvard.
The paper, “Unhappy Cities,” leaned on survey data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asked respondents: “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?”
Researchers then tweaked that data for control factors such as race, education, marital status and family size. They concluded that New York, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Milwaukee and Detroit are, in that order, America’s least happy cities.
Envy contributes indefatigably to unhappiness, and it is difficult to avoid envy in New York. I don’t subscribe to the idea that neighborhoods with diverse incomes generally make people happier. When you’re in a building with kingly penthouses and you’re in a claustrophobic studio – like my last apartment – you really see up close how the other class lives. In Manhattan at least, those situations are common. It is much easier to keep up with the Joneses when the Joneses are a fellow suburban neighbor with a lifestyle roughly the same as yours. Subdivisions don't usually have a McMansion next door to a Steinbeckian shack.
A lot of people move here to build an identity, to reinvent themselves as winners. They don't just come to be a lawyer, they come to be a New York lawyer. Many of these transplants were large fish in cramped ponds. They arrive and suddenly realize that in Manhattan they’re just average (or worse). They're whole scheme to be the crème de la crème goes sour, and overachievers don’t take underachievement well. They probably would have been happier staying in Omaha, being the best lawyer in town and sucking on a small regret about what might have been in New York (and telling themselves, and probably believing it, that they would have conquered New York).
Those who do try to keep up with the manic Manhattan competition do so at the expense of health and social lives, which of course begets unhappiness. Those competing in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx have a hard time even saying they're in the competition (Staten Island is actually a floating car dealership).
A city with a lot of dreamers is going to have a lot of broken dreams.