26 Apr Do you include the most important variables when you consider/measure happiness?
via Quartz.com by Cassie Werber
Where’s the happiest place on earth?
Countries that use measures of wealth and productivity to gauge their performance look curiously to Bhutan, which tracks “gross national happiness” instead. The Nordic nations, with their generous social welfare systems supporting small, homogenous populations, are often trumpeted as somehow getting it all right. Ask Icelanders why the country consistently tops happiness charts and some will cite women’s empowerment, while others point to the sense of community fostered by hanging out in the country’s many municipal swimming pools and hot springs.
But for the most part, happiness isn’t experienced at a societal level. Rather, it is individuals’ lived experience, day by day, that accounts for the quality of life.
You need to use the right lens—or collect the right data—to see patterns in happiness. For years, a group of economists has tried to judge how countries are faring to this end, both internally and in relation to one another. They’re trying to answer the ultimate question: What do we really need to be happy?
What’s the secret to happiness?
Last year, Michael Porter, a Harvard economist, led the launch of the Social Progress Index (SPI), a new tool to measure how societies are doing in comparison to one another and on a range of non-economic measures. For years economists have been trying to answer the ultimate question: What do we really need to be happy? It’s useful to ask questions about how happy people are, he says. But once you know, what do you do with that information? The problem with happiness data is that it’s not actionable on its own, Porter says. The SPI project seeks to reveal the building blocks of wellbeing, and how well each country is succeeding at providing them.
“Ultimately, we believe you’ve got to go backward in the causal chain, and really understand what is driving happiness,” he said. The SPI teases out a range of indicators, from basic human needs like water and sanitation, to more complex ones like access to advanced education. Unlike previous indexes, it strips out economics, trying instead to identify what, apart from wealth, helps people thrive.
Researchers weren’t surprised to find that fundamentals like water, food, safety, and shelter were key. What did surprise them was another crucial marker that emerged: opportunity…
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