money doesn't buy happiness

Freedom of choice, tolerance, security, and a great sense of belonging or solidarity played the biggest roles in the life satisfaction of people from the happiest countries in the world, according to World Values Survey. A strong correlation between wealth and happiness still exists, though. Majority of the top 10 are from Europe, joined by countries from Latin America, and then Canada. Denmark is still the happiest place on Earth (GDP Per Capita: $37,400), while Zimbabwe is the most depressing (inflation rate at 2,200,000%). Our happy country is 38th in the list, with a GDP next to Switzerland (7th happiest with GDP per capita of $41,100), but with 84 million more mouths to feed and per capita income of $3,400. I guess that our tolerance for corrupt politicos, gossips and traffic, penchant for borderline insane religious beliefs, and having strong family ties make up for what we lack in the money department. We may be 122nd in the purchasing power parity list, but hey, we’re not doing so bad when it comes to finding reasons to be happy…somewhat.

From BusinessWeek:

“…freedom of choice and social acceptance are the most powerful forces behind national moods. ‘Money’s pretty powerful, but it’s not the whole story,’ says Inglehart, though he maintains that a strong correlation still exists between high standards of living and happiness measures.

“Generally, a rising global sense of freedom in the last quarter-century has eclipsed the contribution of pure economic development to happiness, he says. This is especially evident in developed countries with stable economies, where the freedom of choice gained through wealth has made people happier—not necessarily the wealth itself.

“What’s more, ‘there are diminishing returns to economic progress,’ Inglehart says. In poorer countries, happiness can be linked to solidarity among tight-knit communities, religious conviction, and patriotism, which probably explains the happiness of some relatively poor Latin American countries,’ he says.


“Social tolerance is another important factor in how happy a country rates itself…’The less threatened people feel, the more tolerant they are,’ says Inglehart. Tolerance simply has a rippling effect that makes people happier. “

Further readings:

The 10 Happiest Countries
Happiness Viewpoint: It Doesn’t Take Much
What is Happiness?

Citibank ad photo by tantek.