Maybe it’s the promise of the end of the rain and the beginning of a series of sunny days that rival the temperatures seen in Spain and Cyprus, or maybe it’s the realisation that the 6 weeks hiatus from the mania of the school run equals no traffic, no stress, no road rage… happy days.
With all the doom and gloom of economic turbulence, corporate crimes and the seemingly increasing global meltdown despondency is forgivable; however after taking the NHS Choices wellbeing self-assessment it turns out that I’m happier than your average person. Could it be that mystical Christ age? or is it simply being happy with what I have?
Browsing the BBC archives I picked up an old article about Bhutanbeing the only government in the world to place it’s nations ‘happiness’ at the heart of all it’s policies. This has meant forsaking relative material wealth, wholesale technological advancement, modern commerce and the influence of large corporations… virtual hell to some yet clearly Nirvana to Bhutan residents!
David Cameron, current UK Prime Minister, proposed a ‘Happiness index‘ to measure how happy Brits are, in general ,with their lot but the Office for National Statistics Measuring National Well-being (MNW) Programme makes no mention of how this will be used to shape foreign policy, for example. Unlike the approach taken by the Bhutan government; where simple solutions like replacing ‘frustrating’ traffic lights with a human traffic coordinator, spiritual wellbeing makes no appearance, however your happiness can be measured (apparently) by questions that look at;
- Satisfaction with the income of your household
- Human capital (This measure is proposed as reflecting the stock of human capital within the labour market)
- % who trust in Parliament a lot or a fair amount
- % who are very or fairly satisfied with local area
- Satisfaction with your spouse/partner
- Greenhouse emissions
The list of proposed questions can only be described as ‘robust’ but it’s highly questionable what they hope to achieve; beyond the gathering of more statistics that few understand or even care about.
So, wherein lies happiness?
Can your personal happiness be measured by the country you live in?
Can your personal happiness be measured at all?
The WHO (World Health Organisation not popular 60′s rock band) has compiled a list that presents ‘suicide rates per 100,000 population, by country‘. Lithuania tops the list for men. 60 men in every 100,000 of their population commit suicide. South Korea tops the list for women (22 women in every 100,00 of their population commit suicide). This would suggest that these places aren’t the best places to be if happiness is on your agenda but, according to the CIA world factbook, in South Korea literacy is high, the labour force (human capital) is high and unemployment is low… especially in women. By the proposed measures in the Happiness Index this is, or should be, a winning formula! So if better education, relatively more money, more work (high employment), and longer life do not equate to greater happiness what does?
Most happiness indexes look at economic wealth. The current World Happiness Report suggests that, by this measure, Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Switzerland, and Denmark are the happiest on earth but the WHO data reports these countries to be among the top 20 for high suicide rates in men.
So what does this all mean?!
Ultimately the data is a result of what you measure. It seems rather simplistic but if your measure of happiness is money then it stands to reason that you’ll believe that those without money are more likely to be unhappier than those with. If your measure of happiness is spiritual enlightenment then it stands to reason…etc etc… get the picture?
In reality happiness is a personal affair; only you can determine what makes you happy but try the test anyway, if only for fun… especially as fun leads to happiness… doesn’t it?