Monday, February 19, 2007

The elusive bluebird of happiness

Recently, we have seen a spate of books purporting to explain happiness scientifically, from the point of view of genetics, psychology and economics. Having looked at these offerings, I would say that the sources of our relative contentment remain elusive, or rather they are so diverse as to hide in plain sight.

Now we are offered a measure of childhood happiness in 21 developed countries. Secular, tolerant Holland comes out on top with the most contented children. Whether Dutch kids are true bundles of glee or merely spoiled is not for me to say.
1. Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Denmark
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Switzerland
7. Norway
8. Italy
9. Republic of Ireland
10. Belgium
11. Germany
12. Canada
13. Greece
14. Poland
15. Czech Republic
16. France
17. Portugal
18. Austria
19. Hungary
20. United States
21. United Kingdom
Source: Unicef
Americans will no doubt be surprised to discover that our children are among the least happy. There is ample gist here for social scientists to sort out, but one thing is clear: Religion isn't a guarantor of happiness. Surveys that measure how important religion is in the life of a nation show the "child well-being table" turned upside down, U.S.-wise.