A recent study used the responses of 80,000 people worldwide
to make a happiness-map. It did a "meta-analysis" of various studies which asked
questions related to happiness and satisfaction with life, and related these to
health, wealth and education.
Happier people are healthier, more successful,
harder-working, caring and more socially engaged. Misery makes people
self-obsessed and inactive.
When are asked if they were happy with their lives, people
in countries with good healthcare, higher average income, and access to
education were much more likely to report being "happy".
Interestingly, these are the measures that politicians use
to track changes in happiness. In the UK, a BBC survey found that 81% think that
the government should focus on making people happier rather than wealthier.
Strangely, happiness has a somewhat negative image in some
western cultures. After all, isn't it selfish to try to increase our own
happiness, while much of the world faces suffering?
Some think that happiness is a trivial pursuit, a dream
perpetuated by self-help gurus in a burgeoning "happiness industry". Many people
comfort themselves by believing they are happier than average, and that they'll
be even happier within a few years if they strive for more wealth - which keeps
driving them in the proverbial "rat-race".
Most think that if people describe themselves as happy, then
they ARE happy. But psychologists differentiate between happiness-levels. The
most immediate involves feelings of pleasure or joy. But mostly happiness is a
judgment that life is satisfying, and does not imply an emotional state.
Public surveys measure what makes us happy. Marriage does,
pets do, but children don't seem to (despite what we think). Youth and old age
are usually the happiest times. Money does not add much to happiness.
It's well known that rich people are not happy, yet the
pursuit of wealth and "The American Dream" persists. The happiness of lottery
winners returns to former levels within a year. Most people disabled in an
accident are likely to become almost as happy again. Some think that happiness
levels are probably genetic.
Here's how some of the major countries ranked on Happiness: