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Measuring Happiness

Happiness –How do we define it? It is not as easy as you might think. Happiness is contentment, but it also includes feelings of self-worth and dignity. Measuring happiness is not easy either. You may be surprised that happiness has long been studied by economist and policy makers as well as sociologists and psychologists. Some countries have been trying to devise “National Well-Being Accounts” to supplement economic measures such as Gross Domestic Product, but with limited success.

One existing resource is the World Database of Happiness, which is based on numerous surveys and polls. One such poll asks participants from different countries to rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 10. While the United States and Canada averaged a 7.4, it was Costa Rica that boasted the world’s happiest people, with an average of 8.5. Costa Rica is not a wealthy nation like Canada or the United States, but it has a good climate, stable democratic government, comparatively little violence, and perhaps most important, a long-life expectancy.

The old saying “money can’t buy you happiness” appears to be true, to a certain extent. The wealthy as a group are happier than the poor, and wealthy countries are happier than poor ones, but only a little happier, and once the per capita income has reached a certain level, getting richer does not increase the happiness quotient of a country. Happiness is actually linked to health more strongly than it is to wealth, hence Costa Rica having a happier country than the United States or Canada.

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