09 Dec Happiness…at a national level
I argued in my last post that the secret of happiness is what we contribute to others rather than what we get for ourselves. Strangely when one compares happiness among countries, a different picture emerges. Creature comforts – what we get for ourselves – are critical.
Strictly speaking, countries cannot be happy or sad. A happy country is one in which the typical individual professes themselves to be very happy. Happy countries are places in which basic needs are satisfied and it is possible to lead a long healthy life.
How does one account for the contradiction of health and wealth being crucial for happiness when we do country comparisons but being far less important when we compare individuals within a country?
One way of thinking about this is in terms of the success of countries in satisfying basic human needs. Countries in which a lot of people are hungry or sick from infectious diseases like malaria or HIV/AIDS are not happy places. In this context, sub-Saharan Africa is not exactly a barrel of laughs.