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Archive for the ‘Global Happiness’ Category

With European populations aging, researchers have been turning their attention to mature adults and their various levels of happiness and unhappiness.

Here are some of their findings:

  • Older people living alone were more likely to be depressed, lonely and unhappy and to be less satisfied with life than those living with a spouse.
  • Those living with a relative or friend were more likely to be lonely than those living with a spouse.
  • Men living with a relative or friend were less likely to be happy or satisfied with life than those living with a wife.
  • In most regions of Europe, older women who were unmarried were in general happier living with friends and family than alone. But this did not apply to women in Nordic countries where there was no significant difference in happiness levels between living alone or with other people.
  • In England, older women rated their health better if they lived alone rather than with a husband. However, men and women living alone had a higher mortality risk than those who lived with a spouse.

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Politicians who swear U.S. citizens will be happier if they just lowered taxes may want to give the people of Denmark a second look.

Based on world-wide surveys, the Danes typically rank the highest in happiness. And yet, they pay some of the highest taxes in the world — anywhere between 50 and 70 percent.

How can that be?

One possible reason — the government covers all health care and education, and it spends more on children and the elderly than any country in the world per capita. The citizens also say their system is efficient for its small population (5.5 million people).

But there may be another reason, according to this article. Since a banker can end up taking home as much money as an artist, people don’t chose careers based on income or status. Some Danes call it ‘Jante-lov,’ which translates roughly into “You’re no better then anybody else.” In other words, garbage collectors are just as valued as doctors or lawyers.

Another possible explanation for their happiness — Danes are very social. About 90 percent of them belong to some social club, many of which are paid for by the government. Shopping and consuming also is not a top priority. Along with less emphasis on “stuff” and a strong social fabric, the Danes also have a very high level of trust in each other and in their government.

All the necessary ingredients for a healthy, happy population.

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Does increasing happiness foster or sustain the conditions for peace?

Researchers explored that important question by reviewing the survey responses of 52,000 people in 51 countries.

They found several interesting correlations. First, they found that at the individual level self-described happy people tended to have more confidence in the government and armed forces, a greater emphasis on postmaterialist values, stronger support for democracy, less intolerance of immigrants and racial groups, and a greater willingness to fight for one’s country. For example, researchers say participatory governments require individuals to trust that their fellow citizens will not abuse civil and political liberties that are a part. Thus, “by facilitating trust and cooperation, subjective well-being may have important implications for tolerance, as well as support for democracy and individual freedom.”

But these positive attitudes can be greatly affected by the conditions at the national level. Thus, the level of the GNP, violence, inequality, and a country’s overall well-being levels could dampen or diminish those attitudes at the personal level. For example, research suggests that when people perceive a threat or experience fear and anger, they are more likely to endorse punitive measures and are less politically tolerant.

The researchers (Ed Diener and William Tov) bring this all together by saying that while improving individual happiness looks to be a critical foundation for the building of lasting peace in a country, improving the political and economic foundations within a nation must be present as well.

Source: Subjective Well-Being and Peace by Ed Diener and William Tov, Journal of Social Issues 63 (2), 421–440.

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When it comes to happiness, culture plays a big role.

For years researchers have pondered whether or not happiness is a universal trait. Many have concluded that most people across the globe do desire some form and degree of happiness.

But that pursuit of happiness varies greatly depending on one’s culture and circumstances. For example, no surprise — very poor nations and those in dramatic political change invariably report the lowest levels of subjective well-being. Conversely, many of the wealthy and democratic Scandinavian countries consistently report the highest levels of happiness.

But a culture can also be poor in resources and rich in happiness as well. Latin American nations, as an example, appear to have a more positive orientation and value happiness more than other countries. At the other end of the scale, East Asian nations often place other values ahead of happiness, such as mastery and pleasing one’s family or group.

How we define happiness has as much to do with our cultural influences as it does with our personality, goals and other individual factors.

Source: Subjective Well-Being Is Desirable, But Not the Summum Bonum by Ed Diener and Christie Scollon

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