Canadians happy, but Finns are happier

The Sudbury Star
Canadians happy, but Finns are happier; International survey finds that money doesn’t buy bliss, but it doesn’t hurt

Joel Desbois
Local News – Wednesday, August 22, 2007 @ 09:00

Canadians are a happy lot, says a Laurentian University professor. We
just don’t know it, or can’t admit it.

"Canadians are not going to say, brashfully, ‘yeah, I’m full of
happiness.’ They are going to whine a little bit," says Roger Nash,
Laurentian’s director of the masters of arts programs in
humanities. "But sometimes, whiners are amongst the happiest
people. They just need to have a little bit of a whine first."

According to the World Database of Happiness, Canada ranks among the
top 15 happiest countries in the world.

The database, created in 1999 by Ruut Veenhoven, has been accumulating
information for nearly a decade. It not only asks people if they feel
happy, but also uses objective questions based around education,
nutrition, freedom from fear and violence, gender equality and freedom
of choice to determine what exactly makes people happy.

Veenhoven’s database, which lists 95 countries, is headed by Denmark
with a rating of 8.2, followed by Switzerland, Austria, Iceland and
Finland, all countries with high per capita income. At the other end
of the scale are much poorer countries: Tanzania rated 3.2, behind
Zimbabwe, Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia.

Canada, with a 7.6 rating, and the United States with 7.4, just make
it into the top 15. While choice is abundant in America, nutrition and
violence issues helped drag its rating down.

Wealth counts, but most studies of individuals show income disparities
count more.

Surprisingly, however, citizens are no happier in welfare states,
which strive to mitigate the distortions of capitalism than in purer
free-market economies.

"In the beginning, I didn’t believe my eyes," said Veenhoven of his
data. "Icelanders are just as happy as Swedes, yet their country
spends half what Sweden does (per capita) on social welfare," he said.

Adrian White, of the University of Leicester, included twice as many
countries as Veenhoven in his Global Projection of Subjective
Well-being, which also measures the correlation of and wealth. He,
too, led his list with Denmark, Switzerland and Austria.

Bhutan, where less than half the people can read or write and 90 per
cent are subsistence farmers, ranks No. 8 in his list of happy
nations. Its notion of happiness is based on equitable development,
environmental conservation, cultural heritage and good governance.

U.S. researchers have found other underlying factors: married people
are more content than singles, but having children does not raise
levels; education and IQ seem to have little impact; attractive people
are only slightly happier than the unattractive; the elderly – over 65
– are more satisfied with their lives than the young; friendships are

Nash thinks Canada would probably rank higher, except for a unique
characteristic that stops us from appreciating just how happy they

"We tend to underestimate ourselves and we tend to underestimate our
community or nationwide factors like our economy," he says.

"We kind of overlook that we are providing the raw material to a large
part of the rest of the world for their economies to develop." Lands
of joy

World’s happiest nations, according to a survey of 95 countries:

Denmark, with a rating of 8.2, is No. 1, followed by Switzerland,
Austria, Iceland and Finland.

At the other end of the scale:

Tanzania rated 3.2, behind Zimbabwe, Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia.