Young Canadians are not OK

Money can’t buy happiness. But enough of it can buy you a home, which we’re slowly learning is pretty much the same thing. 

What happened: This year’s rankings of the world’s happiest countries revealed that while Canada is still one of the happiest in the world — ranking 15th overall — the happiness gap between younger and older populations is the widest seen in every country on the list.

  • Canadians over 60 rank as the eighth happiest, and those under 30 drop to 58th. But as recently as 2012, young people were just as happy as their older counterparts.

A closer look: Sure, increased financial strains amid high interest rates, rising income inequality, and career uncertainty as AI enters the job market is nothing to smile about, but we wanted to understand if any experts could explain the gap with some economic data. 

  • Matthieu Arseneau, deputy chief economist at National Bank, says there's reason to believe the increasingly difficult path to homeownership is affecting people's morale.

  • Pedro Antunes, chief economist at The Conference Board of Canada, says that while the job market for young people is holding up, falling living standards are a problem.

  • Parisa Mahboubi, a policy expert at the C.D. Howe Institute, says youngsters are also grappling with more transitions, cultural pressures, and the effects of social media.

Why it matters: Sentiment scores, like happiness, can kick off a downward spiral. If people feel bad about their situation, they may spend and invest less, and take fewer risks — which exacerbates economic problems by slowing down home building or deterring foreign investment. 

  • Canadians still enjoy some of the highest living standards in the world, but any perceived downgrade from, say, their parents’ generation will leave people unhappy.

Big picture: In other nations that rank high for overall happiness, like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, young people are also becoming unhappier. But in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe, the youngest are more optimistic than ever.—SB