The countries examined were categorized into three economic groups. The “prosperous” group included countries with major economies, often referred to as the G-7 (The U.S., Great Britain, Japan, Canada, Germany, France and Italy). The “emerging” group was comprised of countries with somewhat less-advanced economies, called the G-20. Lastly, the “aspiring” group consisted of all other countries not included in the first two groups.
The study shows that prosperous countries netted a happiness rating of only 42% while emerging and aspiring countries had higher rates of happiness, reported at 59% and 54%, respectively. Somewhat shockingly, the U.S. respondents indicated a happiness value of 43% compared to Mexico’s 76% — even though the average income in the U.S is five times higher.
So what do these results mean: Are we truly an unhappy society in a rich capitalist economy? It is hard to say. There have been countless studies done to measure happiness across countries, age groups, genders, and socio-economic statuses. One thing we have learned is to interpret the findings with a grain of salt. One element of consistency in every one of these studies is that it’s difficult to gauge happiness when everyone has a different interpretation of what it means. What makes one person happy may not satisfy another’s happiness requirements, even if they are the same gender, with similar income levels living in the same country.
Nigeria, part of the aspiring group, boasts a happiness grade of 61%, which is largely attributed to their optimism and hopefulness. This is nearly 20 points higher than the U.S.’s rate, a nation with one of the most advanced economies and most capitalistic societies in the world. It could be we have too much access, continue to acquire more, and are culturally prone to feelings of hopelessness and pessimism about our future.
Whatever the variables, one message seems clear: instead of looking for more wealth to make us happy, it would behoove us to look elsewhere for fulfillment.