Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy

I have blatantly stolen the title for this post from this interview with Louis CK on Late Night with Conan O’Brien: Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.

I found this report online a couple of months ago, the World Happiness Report (7.8Mb PDF), by Jeffrey Sachs and some other dudes.

The report includes the results from surveys where people who are 15 years or older in many different countries were asked, among other things, to rate their quality of life on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being worst. This assessment is called the ‘Cantril Ladder‘.

The report gives data for how many people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) said 0, how many said 1, etc. Personally, though, I am not certain what value there is to comparing averages, in part because of cultural biases. If you think your quality of life is well above average but not fantastic, people from one country or region might tend to respond 7 while others might call that an 8. If your life is quite bad, does it really matter whether you said 2 or 3?
So all I have done below is taken the fractions of people who said 9 or 10 and added those together. Let’s call them ‘Very Happy‘. I also took the fractions whose said 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 and add all those together. Let’s call them ‘Unhappy‘. Then, I subtracted the two.

(click image to enlarge)

We would hope that the number of Very Happy people would greatly outnumber those who are Unhappy, but actually this was only true in North America and Latin America. Actually, one region was the combination of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where the Very Happy were about 25% of the population and the Unhappy were only about 7%, for a difference of about +18%, and the other region was Latin America and the Caribbean, where the difference was 0.1%.

For everyone else in all of the rest of the world, the number of Unhappy people outnumber those who are Very Happy. Even in Europe, which I found surprising. The world average difference was about -25%.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the region with the highest percentage of adults who responded ‘0’ was the Middle East and North Africa. But, overall the Very Happy / Unhappy gap was greater in South Asia, East Asia and Subsaharan Africa.

I guess more people just need to watch Louis CK’s video.

~~~

Why are Americans, Canadians and Australians so much happier than even Europeans? Perhaps it is because they are richer, better educated and more urban.

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