This is kind of interesting.

According to a major study released last year that analyzed the results of more than 100 global surveys on well-being, the Dutch led the world in well-being and life satisfaction. Canada squeaked into the top 10. The United States came in 23rd.

But ask the question from another angle: Which country is the most efficient at being happy, and Canadians become downright grim, falling to 111th out of 178 countries on the Happy Planet Index.

Canada, unsurprisingly, earns high scores in the first two rankings, which are heavily influenced by health, wealth, and education. But the country’s ecological footprint kicks Canadians into the sad ranks of Poland and Macedonia. (Canadians can again take some solace in the American score, where consumer culture drops them to 150, putting the U.S. two spots above Rwanda.) As the study’s authors point out, the most happy-efficient people live on islands. And Germans get the same amount of time on earth and spend it just as happily as Americans – at a 50 per cent discount for the environment.

But who should get the credit for boosting Canada’s high level of well-being? It seems the applause should go to New Brunswick, where residents in a new national survey called the Relative Happiness Index self-reported the most joyful lives. In that study, which polled 2,400 people across the country, the east is happier than the west: Newfoundland and P.E.I. came second and third, Ontario placed fourth, Alberta finished eighth.

“It’s about the glass,” says Pierre Cote, a Quebec City marketing consultant who created the study, to explain New Brunswick’s score. “I think maybe they are happier with what they have.” For instance, people surveyed in New Brunswick were the least likely to say that modern society made happiness more difficult to achieve, and the most likely to say people are as happy today as they had been in the past or will be in the future.

I think it’s good that New Brunswickers are ‘happy’ and ‘contented’ and lead joyful lives – although when this study came out earlier the survey size is very suspect (an average of 240 people surveyed per province – not exactly statistically relevant).

However, if that numbness is leading to a lack of action on our serious economic challenges, it could be a bad thing.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    NB happiness = complacency

    I agree that your cautious celebration of the “NB happiness index’ is warranted. Despite the economic doom and gloom awaiting us as our traditional forestry and fishery sectors collapse, our skilled and educated workers emerging as our most significant export, and critical infrastructure such as our education system rated last in the country, there is a false sense of security that someone will ride in on their white horse and save us.

    The self sufficiency exercise provided a good indication of how disconnected the general population is with economic prosperity. If you consider that only a tiny portion of the population responded, and if you assume that those responding were the ones that care, or at least had a self-serving interest to promote, how can we seriously consider that NB’s economic outlook will be magically transformed simply by moving the provincial capital to Mirimichi? I realize this is only one person’s idea but it represents the lack of understanding, and lack of sense of urgency associated with our economic future.

    It is time for some harsh projections to be presented in effort to create some sort of sense of urgency. Let’s project 15 years when many young people have left the province, those remaining are aging and those immigrating are ex NBer’s who have retired and are returning to their home province. What will the tax rates be for the minority of the population still working? We are on a slippery slope and it is time to take the candy coating off our future so people realize we have to start changing our attitudes, expectations and behaviors now to preserve what we think makes us happy.