Monday, May 5, 2008


I have always liked the phrase, "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" from the Declaration of Independence. Ambiguous, yet it has a nice ring to it.

I'm sure that thousands of studies have been done on the topic of happiness, both scientific and theological. And with varying results. Earlier this year I read "Desiring God," by John Piper, which represents one model of a Christian pursuit of happiness.

I've tried to write about happiness here a few times, but my little problem with wordiness and the abundance of existing publicatons prompt me to be brief. I will simply note, for your interest, the results of one of many recent studies:

"The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Austria
4. Iceland
5. The Bahamas
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Bhutan
9. Brunei
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Luxembourg
13. Costa Rica
14. Malta
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Malaysia
18. New Zealand
19. Norway
20. The Seychelles

Other notable results include:

23. USA
35. Germany
41. UK
62. France
82. China
90. Japan
125. India
167. Russia

The three least happy countries were:

176. Democratic Republic of the Congo
177. Zimbabwe
178. Burundi ."

In addition to wondering about obvious possible factors like wealth, climate, and genes, one of my questions is:

How does a culture's attitude towards self-expression play a role? For example, some cultures may consider it rude or prideful to consider oneself "satisfied." On the other hand, in another culture it may be unmannerly to say one lacks something. Why is Japan in the middle? Are the Japanese neutral about their satisfaction level?

Would a Dane ever admit that he or she were unhappy? What would it take? How about a citizen of one of those African countries down at the bottom? Would his or her life situation ever change enough to raise the happiness meter?

And what are the comparative happiness ratings of Christians in the countries surveyed?

And how would I answer such a survey? I have no idea. It's like the ambiguous "how are you?". What does that mean? How am I physically? Emotionally? How is my work? Personal life? Do I ever have the right to say I'm doing terribly, as long as someone is poorer or sadder or sicker than I am? Can I ever say I'm doing great, while there are still goals unreached or unfulfilled desires? And yet, does a neutral response respect the interest of the one inquiring?

I will sum up thus: There is always something to rejoice about. But there is always more work to be done!

I found the article here, and the original cited context is: University of Leicester. "Psychologist Produces The First-ever 'World Map Of Happiness'." ScienceDaily 14 November 2006.


  1. This IS interesting. I immediately thought of "the smile" - so common in the US, so much less so in Russia. Are Americans more apt to think that they SHOULD say they are "happy", happiness being so much a stated goal of life in this country? And could Russians be less apt to claim happiness, as it might seem to reflect complacency or a lack of seriousness about life? Even stupidity? (I remember someone reporting that a judge in an adoption case said she wished those people would "wipe those stupid American smiles" off their faces.)

    I wonder if the results reflect true happiness, or partly how happiness itself is valued - and if time permits will check out the original article.

  2. Занятно, Дания на первом месте, Швеция на 6-ом. Между тем по другой статистике в этих странах очень высокий процент самоубийств, по сравнению с Европой...

  3. Да, и в Швецарии много самоубийств, хотя на втором месте. Странно. Что это за "счастье"?

  4. Думаю, в этих странах просто не принято говорить, что ты несчастен. По опросам получается, что все счастливы. В таком обществе быть несчастным нельзя, есть только один выход: покончить с жизнью :(
    Хотя, может быть я ошибаюсь, и причина в другом.

  5. Думаю, ты и прав. Только зачем опрос тогда, если исследователи не рассматривают культуру?


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