How should a government measure its success? For decades the measure has been money, the more of it people have the better off they are. But is money what we are all after? whatever happened to “the pursuit of happiness”?
Back in 1968 Robert Kennedy said, “Our gross national product, if we should judge America by that, counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage . . .it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile,”
but given the ease of measuring GDP and the ethereal and unmeasurable status of happiness, we had no other option, until now. Happiness has become quantifiable.
Escaping the sole domain of philosophers long ago, happiness study now reaches across a wide range of disciplines including economics and politics. recently this new discipline released the World Happiness Report, a 148 page report compiling data gathered from across the world over years of research to provide insights into what makes collective groups of people happy or unhappy.
Chances are if you are living in Denmark, Norway, Finland, or Netherlands, you are feeling quite self contented and, well, happy. These northern European countries topped the list of happy places, and several African countries were at the bottom.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is taking this research seriously. Funding a panel of experts in psychology and economics with the goal of defining reliable measures of “subjective well-being”, the department is looking to make happiness into official statistics.