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Monday, June 30, 2008

World-wide Happiness Is On the Rise

An article was published by Reuters today about a recent study about the rise of world-wide happiness, indicating the following:

Denmark, with its democracy, social equality and peaceful atmosphere, is the happiest country in the world, researchers said on Monday.
Zimbabwe, torn by political and social strife, is the least happy, while the world's richest nation, the United States, ranks 16th.
Overall, the world is getting happier, according to the U.S. government-funded World Values Survey, done regularly by a global network of social scientists.
It found increased happiness from 1981 to 2007 in 45 of 52 countries analyzed.
"I strongly suspect that there is a strong correlation between peace and happiness," said Ronald Inglehart, a political scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, who directed the study. Read more
In another related article on MSNBC, this was stated:
The Happiness Index
The results of the survey, going back an average of 17 years in 52 countries and involving 350,000 people, will be published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Researchers have asked the same two questions over the years: "Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?" And, "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?"

A Happiness Index created from the answers rose in 40 countries between 1981 and 2007, and it fell in the other 12.
Scientists had thought happiness is stable over time when looking at entire societies. "Most previous research suggests that people and nations are stuck on a 'hedonic treadmill,'" Inglehart said. "The belief has been that no matter what happens or what we do, basic happiness levels are stable and don't really change."
So Inglehart's team was surprised that happiness "rose substantially." They speculate reasons for the sunny outlooks include societal shifts in recent decades: Low-income countries such as India and China have experienced unprecedented rates of economic growth; dozens of medium-income countries have democratized; and there has been a sharp rise of gender equality and tolerance of ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians in developed societies.
Previous research has found that happiness is partly inherited and that money doesn't buy much of it.
Yet the new survey finds people of rich countries tend to be happier than those of poor countries. And controlling for economic factors, certain types of societies are much happier than others.
"The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives," Inglehart said. Read more
Photo: Gaucin, Spain

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