Does the country you live in affect your happiness? Of course it does, at least to an extent. But there’s no
easy formula, as blogger Ethan Zuckerman writes in his review of Eric Weiner’s book "The Geography of Bliss."
There are some interesting geographic patterns to happiness.
Impoverished and wartorn nations are generally not happy places.
Scandinavian and Alpine nations are, for the most part. You might
conclude that cold, rich nations are the places to be if you’d like to
But making generalizations in this field is difficult. Many of the former Soviet states are cold, and most rank very low in happiness. Money’s not guaranteed to help either. There’s an "East-Asian Happiness Gap", where wealthy East Asian nations are a lot less happy than you’d expect given their wealth. [Link]
I’d rather be poor in a country that gives me freedom than rich in a country that’s restrictive. I’d hate to live in a country that controls the media or chops off the hands of thieves. I’d hate to live in a country where women don’t have much freedom, not just the freedom to work and move around freely, but also the freedom to wear bikinis.
Weiner gives us intriguing hints at the state of the art of happiness research, writing at some length about “the hedonic treadmill",
a concept coined by Philip Brickman and Donald Campbell, who were
studying the happiness of lottery winners and accident victims.
Unsurprisingly, the lottery winners were quite happy, and the paralyzed
accident victims unhappy. But over time, both returned to levels quite
close to their happiness before these surprising developments. [Link]
Yeah, we humans quickly adjust to our circumstances. That 52-inch high-definition TV might make you happy for a few days, but you’ll soon get used to it and it won’t seem so big anymore, especially when your friend Abdul buys an 80-inch model, the bastard.
Most people believe that acquiring a bit more money would make them
happy; they tend to find that acquiring wealth is a trap, as they
always want a bit more (hence, the treadmill.) There’s an exception –
people who are truly impoverished will see their happiness increase
with increased income. But this effect maxes out at a surprisingly low
level, around $15,000 in annual income. [Link]
Once your basic needs are met, more money isn’t going to make you much happier. I know this because one of my friends has satisfied all his basic needs, including a basic cable package and a basic model BMW.
Photo by i.embrace