In Hot Pursuit

As you are likely already aware, the World Values Survey released the results of their annual World Happiness rankings yesterday and we Americans found our beloved USA ranked 16th out of the 97 countries included. Denmark took top honors, followed behind by Peurto Rico, Iceland, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, and even Columbia.

That's right, even Columbians are happier than we are!

[insert nose candy joke here]

The survey is done in the same manner it always has been: two questions about happiness and satisfaction are asked to a number of respondents from each country and they are given the same Very, Somewhat, Neutral, Somewhat Un-, Very Un- options you get when the movie ratings people call during dinner.

There's a lot of interpretation being done about what the results mean. There are those who point to the role having a peaceful nation plays in leading to happiness -- none of the top ten countries are at war -- and I think that could definitely be a big part of it. Others look to the top ten countries and see lands where people live and let live. Places where people don't waste excessive energy trying to impart their own belief systems on others. Perhaps our country's tendency to try and govern morality keeps our happiness in check? Maybe this would be a more pleasant place if we'd just allow people to live their lives? You know, maybe if we just let the gay couples marry, legalized marijuana, stopped the bickering over abortion, allowed prostitution, etc., etc., then everyone would lighten up and just enjoy themselves. Oh, who am I kidding, I'm sure someone would find another crusade to carry the torch for and the arguments would rise again... especially if votes were to be won.

What's most interesting in all of this is that, despite being ranked 16th, the USA is the only country on the planet who actually has "the pursuit of happiness" written right into our nation's Declaration of Independence. Think about it: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are our inalienable rights. They are what led our ancestors here from across the oceans and what leads so many more immigrants here today from all corners of the globe.

But how can a nation who all but demands its citizens to pursue happiness, not be happy?

I blame the obesity rate.

Have your ever seen a fat man run? A thinner, fitter, more spry America is far more capable of giving chase than the bloated 2008 model we see before us today. How can people obtain happiness if they're too out of shape to catch it? One can only imagine how many hearttacks this so-called pursuit of happiness has led to!

Which of course immediately begs the question: is it possible to sue the founding fathers?

This is America afterall.

Life, liberty, and the waddle-after of happiness.

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For some serious reading on the subject -- which this post clearly isn't -- I blindly recommend The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner. Amazon link. I listened to a pre-recorded interview with the author last week and heard several excerpts from his book. My copy is already ordered and I'm looking forward to getting it, especially in light of the recent rankings. I think anyone with an interest in sociology and travel will find it pretty interesting.

1 comment:

Jackie said...

Great post! We were reading the "World happiness" article together in the lab yesterday, and being the research psychologists that we are (though not on clinically-related topics) we were discussing the many flaws in the research paradigm. Nevertheless, you make some really excellent points. I was just in Amsterdam a couple months ago where, as I'm sure you know, things are far more lenient. And wouldn't you know, the people are far happier and more comfortable in their lives--they enjoy life. Sadly, though, a more conservative government is now changing things in Amsterdam...for example, this month they can no longer smoke indoors. To them, that's a huge blow to the culture...and it's only the beginning....