Happiest Nations

Image of Earth at night with a sign saying "Party"Random Research

Today I was searching the web for news around housing inequity and how that relates to (dis)satisfaction in major cities. While this is not an area where I am actually doing any work it is something that I have been curious about. Especially if there were a game design idea that might lead to recognizing or changing inequities.

Saturdays have been notorious for this. I do not feel the work-week pressure to stay on task so I explore things outside my normal bounds: Games for learning and social justice, LGBTQ advocacy and educational contexts, educational technologies, exciting new user interface ideas, art work, and improving my technical skills in videography, visual design, research methods, or other scintillating tasks like staring at spreadsheets (though I do admit an unhealthy fascination for pivot tables).

This morning I logged in with the intent to forgo all the above distractions and read some online comics and the aforementioned housing equity research curiosity. Instead I stumbled onto this video and decided I needed to post something:


What stands out for me is how the commentator talks about first economics and then life expectancy. These seem like strongly western-centric ideals for happiness. I think having a job and predictions of a long life would probably contribute to overall happiness but what are the more visceral factors in achieving happiness?

There are a tons of articles and “Self-help Gurus” out there selling twelve step plans to happiness. We also have a wide variety of religious and philosophical guides on this topic. Still, when it comes down to it I think happiness is an intensely personal pursuit. Especially as I interrogate myself.

Financial equity in society would definitely help me to feel confident in some facets of life but having overwhelmingly more than others around me would be very dissatisfying. Partially because economic status helps guide ways I can related to others. If we can afford a bottle of wine together we may have other things in common. If they buy 100 year old scotch and pass it around I feel out of my depth (but I would love a glass). Often shared activities and exploring something new bring me temporary happiness. Currently I am trying to figure out how to make that my career.

Social interactions + plus exploring new ideas & places x longterm career = happily helping society.

Recently I applied to a position that appears to solve several of these needs: outreach to the LGBTQ education community, a little travel, building new curriculum, working with some of the greatest people in a city housing some of my most cherished memories….I refuse to jinx this much more by actually state the position. Besides I am also looking at positions in addition to this one and they have just as many components of the formula though they lack the…je ne sais quoi…of the position I am currently having nightmares about. (Yes. In my heart this is a dream position. So wonderful that my subconscious is providing night time entertainment such as getting lost at an airport before an interview. Somehow I am also getting horrible directions from someone who has nothing to do with the dream-job).

Back to the topic: National Happiness…or who is the happiest nation?

The United States is ranked 17 out of 34. This is a drop from 14th apparently. Not unexpected really. There is a lot of room for improvement in life expectancy (health care, housing, food etc) and wealth equity. Greece, Hungary, and Poland score at the lowest end. Also not that unexpected given their respective struggles. At the top were Norway, Switzerland, and Canada as well as a few other countries where I am currently exploring immigration requirements.

I can’t remember if Australia was on the list. That would be another place I would go. Mexico was in the top ten. Way to go Mexico! I am not immigrating to Mexico though – my Spanish is terrible and I would feel guilty if Mexico’s ranking dropped because folks were mad an a crazy American butchering local dialects.

Bhutan’s former king was really into the gross domestic happiness idea. Excuse me – I have more research to do.