Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at the University of Leicester in England, has collected data from more than 100 studies around the globe and created a list that ranks 178 countries on the basis of happiness -- the subjective perceived well-being of the populace within each country.
Participants in the various studies, some 80,000 people worldwide, were asked questions relating to satisfaction with life and personal happiness. According to Professor White, "a nation's level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels, followed by wealth, and then provision of education."
Believe it or not, the top 20 happiest nations are:
5) The Bahamas
13) Costa Rica
15) The Netherlands
16) Antigua and Barbuda
18) New Zealand
20) The Seychelles
Some of the more prominent nations with large populations and/or significant global influence include:
And at the bottom of the list:
176) Democratic Republic of the Congo
As expected, the smaller nations tend to be the happier ones -- less people, less problems. Large countries with a multi-cultural populace have more internal conflict -- it's difficult to accommodate a wide variety of views.
Obviously, freedom wasn't a significant factor in this study. The countries at the top of the list are highly socialistic where taxes are burdensomely high and the government operates a multitude of social services.
In a collectivist society, people become dependent upon government thereby lowering individual initiative, causing economic stagnation. It also diminishes the pride and joy of personal accomplishment.
It's not too surprising that a social psychologist would consider "well-being" factors as the primary elements of happiness. But to many people, individual freedom is far more important than a government handout.
Weather certainly wasn't a major consideration either. Six out of the top seven nations are Nordic countries near the Arctic Circle where the air is cold, the nights are long and everyone drinks vodka just to stay warm.
In 2004, a liberal friend of mine was so upset with the Bush administration he decided to move to Finland because they have all sorts of government benefits. He also indicated he wanted to teach his sons to be self-sufficient.
When I pointed out that Finland had a high incidence of depression and the highest suicide rate in the world, he argued it was genetic. When I mentioned that socialism was the opposite of self-sufficiency, he growled at me. When I told him the search for happiness was one of the main reasons for unhappiness, he told me to eat dirt and die.
I don't think he ever did move to Finland, but don't know for sure. Our friendship ceased when it became apparent he was a blithering idiot. Wherever he landed, I'm certain he feels entitled to the earnings of others -- after all, that's what self-sufficiency is all about.
The USA is far from perfect. But it's big enough, from sea to shining sea, to explore until you find your niche, be it the backwoods of Arkansas, the lakes of Minnesota, the mountains of Colorado, the desert of Arizona, the beaches of Florida, the hills of Tennessee, the expanse of Alaska, the islands of Hawaii, the shores of Carolina, the big sky of Montana, the bayous of Louisiana, the bustle of New York, or the fantasy of California.
You can live a happy life in the USA. There are plenty of lifestyles to choose from; or you could end your pursuit of happiness and just be happy. If you can't find happiness within yourself, you won't find it elsewhere.
Besides, if you were happy every day of your life, you wouldn't be human – you'd be a game show host.
Quote for the Day -- "Mystical references to society and its programs to help may warm the hearts of the gullible but what it really means is putting more power in the hands of bureaucrats." Thomas Sowell
Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Donner and where happiness is an inside job.