July 14, 2010

WE HAPPY VIKINGS:

The World's Happiest Countries (Francesca Levy, 07.14.10, Forbes)

The five happiest countries in the world--Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands--are all clustered in the same region, and all enjoy high levels of prosperity.

"The Scandinavian countries do really well," says Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup, which developed the poll. "One theory why is that they have their basic needs taken care of to a higher degree than other countries. When we look at all the data, those basic needs explain the relationship between income and well-being." [...]

"Money is an object that many or most people desire, and pursue during the majority of their waking hours," researchers wrote in the report. "It would be surprising if success at this pursuit had no influence whatsoever when people were asked to evaluate their lives."

Indeed, Denmark, the world's happiest country, had a per-capita GDP of $36,000 in 2009, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. That's higher than 196 of the 227 countries for which the CIA collects statistics.

But there's more to happiness than riches. The Gallup study showed that while income undoubtedly influenced happiness, it did so for a particular kind of well-being--the kind one feels when reflecting on his or her own successes and prospects for the future. Day-to-day happiness is more likely to be associated with how well one's psychological and social needs are being met, and that's harder to achieve with a paycheck.

Take Costa Rica. The sixth-happiest country in the world, and the happiest country in the Americas, it beat out richer countries like the United States. That's because social networks in Costa Rica are tight, allowing individuals to feel happy with their lot, regardless of financial success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 14, 2010 5:32 PM
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