Tuesday, January 09, 2007

And Who Are The Happiest People In The World?

These days, it would appear to be the Danes, tied with the Swiss. Last year it was the Puerto Ricans. Or maybe the Australians. Three years ago, Nigerians came in first. It's a bit disorienting. This guy says happy people are crazy: they're burdened with "major affective disorder, pleasant type."

In the New Statesman, Nick Cohen tries to sort it out with the help of the economist Andrew Oswald:

Novelists, poets and psychologists have always thought about happiness. Oswald has found a way of counting it. And this miserabilist approach, this calculus of contentment whose utilitarianism seems against all the spontaneity we associate with happiness, may be a great intellectual breakthrough, precisely because it translates feelings into figures.

If the political interest and the sales of popular "happiness economics" books are a guide, Oswald has provided a tool that will change the way people think, as his once sceptical colleagues are beginning to realise.

"I just have to click on the internet now, and every week there are new papers on happiness written by people I've never met, never heard of," he says.


Here's the World Database of Happiness. Here's Happiness and Public Policy.

I'm feeling postively chipper.


Blogger Robert G. said...

Ukraine near the basement?! My maternal relatives are such a happy-go-lucky bunch...

12:25 PM  
Blogger : : Tim Harvey : : said...

This map is way off base. I just wrapped up a trip around the world, mainly by bicycle, and a bicycle, for whatever reason, is like a witching stick to a diviner - it's a magical happiness gauge. In the grey suburbs of Tuscon, you will be yelled at by people strung out by heavy traffic. But in places like Russia, so deep-set is the basic human propensity to be happy, despite the hardships of life in rural Siberia, for example, that the arrival of a travelling cyclist elicits impromptu cheers and even parties held on the spot. Is this real, sub-surface happiness, or just a moment's relief from deep-set dejection with life? I would argue the former. While Russia is a nation of extremes, and aggravated misery is present as well, people are fundamentally more cooperative and satisfied with less, more likely to break out in heartfelt, earnest happiness at the drop of a hat than anywhere I've been.

Nicaragua, on the other hand, is listed as above average. No comment required! It ranks just above El Salvador, which sits on the happier side of average. Excuse me? The most densely-populated nation in the Americas, with the Americas' highest murder rate (higher than Colombia), where the average rural citizen has 2.4 years of education, and a civil war left family shredded and limbs blown off by land mines... where a friend of mine was murdered on the street (her mother was none too happy about that) is listed on the happier side of average?!

I applaud the attempt to map out something so ephemeral as happiness, but I'm happy to say, I won't be consulting this map when planning my next round of travels!

2:02 PM  

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