Are We Happy Now?

prozacAn analytic social psychologist (different, I guess, from an intuitive social psychologist, who just makes shit up?) at Leicester University in the UK has developed the first “World Map of Happiness.”

According to the study, Denmark is the happiest nation in the world. Fancy that — and I left almost 10 years ago, to go live in the United States, a paltry No. 23 on the list (and that’s with the drugs; take away the Prozac that’s piped into the drinking water, and this country would be right down there with Burundi and Zimbabwe…). Oh, well, you can’t always pick a winner, and all that.

But what’s the point, really? While the authors of the study acknowledge that it’s a subjective exercise, “being happy” surely is an entirely individual perception in constant flux, not a demographic parameter to be measured and compared? Or put it this way: if half of the clinically depressed people left Sweden tomorrow, would the other half of them suddenly feel so much happier? And if those that left went to Denmark, would they suddenly feel a surge of cheeriness because, hey, it is one happy place to be? Would Denmark suddenly move down the list? C’mon…

Measuring national happiness is perhaps a bit like the (deranged) American penchant for Wars on Concepts (War on Drugs, War on Terror, etc.): it can’t really be done, so when you try you’re not really sure what you accomplish and what to do with your perceived but fudgible results.

The best part of the Businessweek story is the comment section, where Vinod from India points out: “I think that India, in spite of facing so many problems like terrorism, corruption, poverty, and many more, is the happiest nation in the world.” Spoken like a true optimist; never let the militant expression of pervasive religious hatred and the plight of millions of uneducated, sick kids get you down.

(h/t to Mark for pointing me to this story).