Friday, March 02, 2012

More on the discorrelation of happiness and material welfare

The economist has an interesting piece on a study of 19,000 adults in 24 different countries by the research company Ipsos measuring "degrees of happiness". It reaches several counter-intuitive conclusions:
Large, fast-growing emerging markets do not share rich industrialized countries’ pessimism. The already large “very happy” cohort rose 16 points in Turkey, ten points in Mexico and five points in India...thus the highest levels of self-reported happiness is not in rich countries, as one would expect, but in poor and middle-income ones, notably Indonesia, India and Mexico. In rich countries, happiness scores range from above-average—28% of Australians and Americans say they are very happy—to far below the mean. The figures for Italy and Spain were 13% and 11% (Greece was not in the sample). Most Europeans are gloomier than the world average. So levels of income are, if anything, inversely related to felicity. Perceived happiness depends on a lot more than material welfare.  


  1. Anonymous12:26 PM

    I would not say this is counter-intuitive. An upwardly mobile person is bound to be happier from the constant achievement of greater goals, whereas a stagnant person higher up does not have a continous source of "greater" achievement to draw happiness from.

  2. On a recent tv news item here in Australia showed some Indonesians who were guilty of a bombing were seen smiling at the cameras rather than looking suitably contrite, which many Australian viewers took to indicate callousness, or worse. In fact, a display of unhappiness is considered antisocial in Indonesian culture so their smiles were in fact respectful.

    This is a problem for self-rated cross-cultural studies (although it possibly begs the question.) Especially Asian cultures, rating ones self as very happy could simply be good form. In European cultures, happiness is ambivalent, it sometimes indicates "goofiness" where a moody quality can be quite desirably sexy.