Andrew Cohen of the Ottawa Citizen has a new piece that discusses a 2006 study by social psychologist Adrian White of the University of Leicester. The study, entitled “A Global Projection of Well Being: A Challenge to Positive Psychology?,” employed more than 100 studies to rank countries by their citizens’ level of happiness.
Congrats to our readers from Denmark, the happiest nation according to White’s study.
Below we excerpt portions of Cohen’s article.
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When they say that the Danes are the happiest people on earth – as a widely publicized study by the University of Leicester found in 2006 – the Garden of Mythology comes to mind. After all, an airport garden, in a country that is dreary for much of the year, is fundamentally human. When the sun finally comes out, people have a heightened sense of well-being.
The study was done by Adrian White, a social psychologist. Using a battery of statistics and a survey of attitudes among 80,000 people around the globe, he created “a world map of happiness.” Of 178 countries, he found Denmark the happiest.
An odd choice, you might think, for a people known for herring and Hamlet. Or for a people described as brooding, remote and dour.
No matter. Professor White concludes that happiness is about being healthy, wealthy and wise. While much of his study is subjective, he measures levels of GDP, health and education. He also finds that countries of low population and high social cohesion tend to be happier.
Denmark, for example, is a generous welfare state. Health care is excellent. University is free and students are paid to attend. Paid holidays extend to six weeks a year. Violent crime is rare.
Unsurprisingly, the next half-dozen countries on the list – Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, The Bahamas, Finland, Sweden – are also (with some variations) small, safe, affluent and homogenous. Canada is 10th on the list, which would seem about right given its prosperity (though not its distinctive diversity).
The United States (where happiness is virtually a constitutional right) is 23rd, Germany 35th, Great Britain 41st. Japan, which is wealthy and healthy, does surprisingly badly at 90th place.
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