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Hullabaloo


Thursday, March 20, 2014

 
Happiness on a scale of one to ten

by digby

At least we hit the Top 20 in this one:


The happiest countries in the world are all in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands). Their average life evaluation score is 7.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. The least happy countries are all poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone) with average life evaluation scores of 3.4. But it is not just wealth that makes people happy: Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are together more important than income in explaining well-being differences between the top and bottom countries. At the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are crucial.
[...]

The report shows that, where happiness is measured by how happy people are with their lives:

Happier countries tend to be richer countries. But more important for happiness than income are social factors like the strength of social support, the absence of corruption and the degree of personal freedom.
Over time as living standards have risen, happiness has increased in some countries, but not in others (like for example, the United States). On average, the world has become a little happier in the last 30 years (by 0.14 times the standard deviation of happiness around the world).

Unemployment causes as much unhappiness as bereavement or separation. At work, job security and good relationships do more for job satisfaction than high pay and convenient hours.

Behaving well makes people happier.

Mental health is the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country. Yet only a quarter of mentally ill people get treatment for their condition in advanced countries and fewer in poorer countries. 
Stable family life and enduring marriages are important for the happiness of parents and children. 
In advanced countries, women are happier than men, while the position in poorer countries is mixed. 
Happiness is lowest in middle age.

As case studies, the report describes in detail how happiness is measured in Bhutan and the United Kingdom, and it lays out how the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development plans to promote standard methods of data collection in different countries. The report itself proposes two evaluative questions that should be asked by social surveys of representative populations in all countries:

Taking all things together, how happy would you say you are? (where 0 means extremely unhappy, and 10 means extremely happy)

All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole nowadays? (where 0 means extremely dissatisfied and 10 means extremely satisfied.)

I have my suspicions about why America is not in the Top 10 despite the fact that it's very wealthy and basically runs the world. (That latter may actually be part of the reason why its people aren't deliriously happy.) But you can come to your own conclusions.

I think this song expresses our very special American form of happiness the best:


If you're in the mood for something completely different take a look at this fascinating Josh Holland interview with Clair Brown on the subject of "Buddhist Economics", wherein happiness plays a major role. (Of course, what Buddhists consider happiness may be different from what you consider happiness ....)

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