Saturday, July 17, 2010

Reflections on Happiness



"Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it."

— Nathaniel Hawthorne

Okay Sixteeners, the subject for today is happiness. It is on my mind because I read the results of a Gallup World Poll ranking the world's countries by happiness. The results wre released recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Looking at data collected across 132 countries, the Gallup Organization based their marks on representative samples of more than 136,000 people in each country. Respondents were asked how they would rate their lives on a scale from zero (worst possible) to 10 (best possible). They were also required to reply to a series of questions on positive or negative emotions. In addition, the poll asked respondents whether they felt respected, whether they had family and friends they could count on in an emergency, and how free they felt to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do "what one does best."

As in previous studies, this recent analysis found that life evaluation, or life satisfaction, increases with personal and national income. It also found that positive feelings, which also increase somewhat as income rises, are much more strongly associated with other factors, such as feeling respected, having autonomy and social support, and working at a fulfilling job.

According Gallup, the happiest country was ..... a little drum role please ..... Denmark.

Here is Gallup's list of the top 15 happiest countries, each with a mean score between 7.0 and 7.7.

1. Denmark: 7.7
2. Finland: 7.7
3. Norway: 7.6
4. The Netherlands: 7.6
5. Costa Rica: 7.6
6. Canada: 7.5
7. Switzerland: 7.5
8. New Zealand: 7.4
9. Sweden: 7.3
10. Austria: 7.3
11. Australia: 7.3
12. The United States: 7.2
13. Belgium: 7.1
14. Brazil: 7.0
15. Panama: 7.0

It is interesting that northern European and Scandinavian countries always score so well on these types of polls. The top ranking country in the Americas was Costa Rica. Costa Rica finished fifth in the happiness derby. Canada was the second ranking country in the Americas and the sixth overall. Hmmmm . . . sixth out of 132 countries is not too shabby.

The percentage of respondents who said they were "thriving" ranges from a high of 82% in Denmark to a low of 1% in the African country of Togo. 62% of the Canadians surveyed said they were thriving.

- Joanne

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