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November 07, 2002

How Happy Are You?


Are you happy? Are you satisfied? If you told me: “yes” or “very” should I believe you?

Obviously, there are a lot of, ahem, philosophical issues raised by such “subjective” measures of happiness. However, blithely ignoring all of them, Ronald F. Inglehart of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Hans-Dieter Klingemann of the Social Science Center in Berlin apparently conducted tens of thousands of personal interviews around the world (personally?) in the mid-1990s and devised a “subjective quality of life” map, which is reproduced in the November issue of Scientific American. Although the map, for reasons left unexplained, does not include Siberia, the Middle East, most of Africa, and Southeast Asia, I thought you’d like to know a few of the highlights:

1. Disneyland is not the Happiest Place on Earth. Apparently, that distinction belongs to Iceland. (Having taken a good look at several “Miss Iceland” contestants at international beauty pageants, I can see how that might be the case. As I understand it, Iceland has a "Miss Universe" for every 90,000 inhabitants.)

Happiest Men on Earth?

2. While the U.S. reports itself to be marginally less happy than Scandinavia, Ireland, and Switzerland, it is either marginally or significantly more happy with its lot than is the rest of Europe or Japan.

3. The least happy country reported is the Ukraine, where people either appear to be downright sunk in misery, or, possibly, highly amused at the thought of lying to the good professors.

4. The biggest surprise is Canada, which only squeaks in ahead of Germany and is a good bit behind the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. Does this demonstrate a true “happiness gap” (as in, “Man the barricades, a horde of disaffected Canadians is headed south across the border!”) or is this some sort of low self-esteem issue for the Canadians? Perhaps they don’t feel they deserve happiness when their dollar is worth only around 67 American cents.

I have only one question. Every time I’ve ever asked a woman this question, it usually entailed a two-to-three hour conversation to discover how she really felt. Do you think the professors stuck with it long enough to really find out?



posted by Friedrich at November 7, 2002


I can't resist. I am *very* happy. And I am female. And that's about it really. Except I can't really divulge in public the main reasons why (sorry about that).

Posted by: Alice Bachini on November 7, 2002 7:12 PM

Friedrich, dude, I think she's messing with our heads, man. But I'm not sure how. Got any ideas?


Posted by: Michael on November 7, 2002 8:50 PM

I am half Ukrainian and a woman. It would require...what?? ..4 to 6 hours for me to examine my feelings on the subject? Do I have time for this? Do you?

Your piece made me smile and that doesn't require too much consideration.

Please leave off with the 'the' when referring to Ukraine, the usage of the article connotes a dismissive attitude towards Ukraine's political stature and will only contribute to our collective misery.

Posted by: Dima on November 11, 2002 8:20 AM

Happiness is the white man's burden.

Posted by: Sarah on November 11, 2002 1:05 PM

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