Wednesday, July 2, 2008

During the past 25 years or so, people around the world have become happier.

How do we know? Because researchers at the University of Michigan, led by political scientist Ronald Inglehart, asked them. These were the questions asked in 97 countries:

"Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?" And, "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?"

So: Whom do you think would rank number one? The answer is Denmark. The survey does not explain why Denmark is number one, of course. It just happens that people in Denmark rank themselves higher than anyone else.

Now that you know Denmark is number one, which country would you guess is second?

The survey found that Zimbabwe is the unhappiest of the 97 countries surveyed. No surprise there. Robert Mugabe's campaign of terror, murder, and assassination, as part of his effort to remain in power, must overwhelm anything else happening in the lives of Zimbabwe's people.

Number two, after Denmark, is Puerto Rico, a kind of polar opposite of Denmark. And number three is Colombia, where people say they are happy and satisfied with their lives, despite political turmoil and drug traffic.

Americans rank 16th behind, among others, Canada.

The survey dealt with individuals, not families, but we might guess that families--and fathers--are happier in Denmark, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Canada than they are in the United States.

What can we learn from this? A frostly climate isn't the key to happiness, nor is a tropical one. Wealth may be partly responsible; poorer countries, as a whole, rank lower than wealthy countries. Inglehart says, "The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives."

How would you answer the questions?

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