What is happiness? According to Lucy from Peanuts, it’s a warm puppy. But what are the secrets from the happiest people on the planet? Some are pretty obvious – be wealthy, get married and have a job. From there, it gets more complicated.
BY MICHAEL YARDNEY
While happiness isn’t easy to quantify, Columbia University’s Earth Institute attempts to do just that in its World Happiness Report, which has the ambitious goal of surveying the state of happiness in the world today.
The report, commissioned by the United Nations Conference on Happiness (yes, that actually exists) shows that richer people are happier than poorer people on average.
Some key findings from the report include:
- Happier countries tend to be richer countries. More important for happiness are social factors like the strength of social support, the absence of corruption and the degree of personal freedom.
- Over time as living standards have risen, happiness has increased in some countries, but not in others. In the United States, happiness levels have remained stagnant while living standards have risen over the past 50 years.
- Unemployment causes as much unhappiness as bereavement or separation. It’s not the loss of income, but the loss of things like self-esteem and workplace social life that lead to a drop in happiness. High unemployment rates can trigger unhappiness, even in those employed, who suddenly become fearful of losing their jobs.
- Behaving well makes people happier.
- Mental health is the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country. Yet only a quarter of mentally ill people get treatment for their condition in advanced countries and fewer in poorer countries.
- Married people across the world were found to be happier than single people. A stable family life and enduring marriages are important for the happiness of parents and children.
- In advanced countries, women are happier than men, while the balance in poorer countries is mixed.
- Happiness is lowest in middle age.
It’s not hard to conclude from these findings that gross domestic product is not the ultimate indicator of happiness.
While I write a lot about money and property in these blogs, I realise that money is important in those areas of your life where it is important, and not at all relevant in those areas where it’s not.
There’s a lot more to wealth than money. Having said that, the findings of this survey can be summarised as follows: the happiest countries in the world are all in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands) and the least happy countries are all poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone).
You can check out the full report here.
Michael Yardney is the director of Metropole Property Investment Strategists who create wealth for their clients through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He is a best-selling author, one of Australia’s leading experts in wealth creation through property and writes the Property Investment Update blog.