In Part 1 of this series on the Science of Happiness, I wrote about a happiness set point.
This is Part 2, where we take a look at the relationship between happiness and geography.
Is where you live correlated with how happy you are? — The answer is yes. But it is a complicated answer. There is a lot of research on the relationship between happiness and geography. As you might imagine, the results depend at least partially on which questions you ask. If you ask people how satisfied they are with their life, and how they felt about the previous day, then you get the data that Forbes reported on from Gallup. The top “happiest” countries according to Gallup are:
- The Netherlands
at the bottom of the list of 155 countries are:
- Sierra Leone
On the Gallup list the United States is #14 and the UK is #17
(If, instead of asking people you measure things like income, access to education, etc, you get very different data, in other words, objective measures don’t agree with subjective measures. A great source of objective measures is the UN’s Human Development Indicators).
Gross National Happiness — In his book, The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner covers the research on happiness and geography, with a bit of satire thrown in. He travels to several of the countries at the top of the list, a few in between, and a few at the bottom, and writes about his adventures, including his visit to Bhutan where they invented and use a GNH (Gross National Happiness) index to make policy decisions instead of the GNP (Gross National Product) or GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Trust is the Key — Weiner summarizes the research this way: The more the people in a country trust their government, the higher up they are on the happiness scale. Another strong factor is the amount of family and social ties that the people in that country have.
Time to move to Denmark? — What do you think? Should we all go move to the Scandinavian countries that rank high? Is this just a correlation and not a causation? Do you think geography is linked to happiness?
If you’d like to dig deeper:
Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss, Twelve, 2008