Tuesday, March 21, 2017

International Day of Happiness

Tuesdays on WKYB I get to talk, mostly about happiness.

March 20 is the International Day of Happiness. The United Nations first proclaimed this annual event in 2012.  They take this occasion to report on well-being around the world.  The index used in this report emphasizes a range of measures of well-being that go beyond economic activity.

This year's report places Norway at the top of the well-being ladder, along with several other Scandinavian countries.  At the bottom are several sub-Saharan African countries, along with Syria. The United States ranks 14th.

Clearly, well-being is roughly related to wealth.  That, though, is not the whole story.  The world rankings show that several Latin American countries are better off than their economic performance would suggest, because they also invest in the kinds of quality relationships that improve well-being.

National governments have been trying to measure and promote overall well-being since the '70s, when Bhutan proclaimed that they would aim to improve Gross National Happiness, more than just Gross National Product. GNP includes all measures of economic activity - more money spent on security and divorce and disease, as well as money spent on good things.  Well-being measures, by contrast, look specifically at things that make life better.

In the U.S., our economic indicators have been improving since the recession, but our social trust measures have been declining.