World Happiness Report

Ever been interested in where you rank in world happiness?

Take a look..  data from the The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.  Here is the data around happiness in the US since 1973.

Figure 5.1: General happiness, U.S. adults, General Social Survey, 1973-2016

This decline in happiness and mental health seems paradoxical. By most accounts, Americans should be happier now than ever. The violent crime rate is low, as is the unemployment rate. Income per capita has steadily grown over the last few decades. This is the Easterlin paradox: As the standard of living improves, so should happiness – but it has not.

Why is the question.  It is really hard to figure out correlation, but data is collectable.  Take a look at this chart the world happiness report created.  Everyone will look at this with different sets of eyes. Some will consider community the piece most important.  Some will consider technology or interaction with technology.   Others will blame drug addiction and crime.

Figure 2.7: Ranking of Happiness 2016-2018

Interesting data for sure, and makes me want to move to Finland as quickly as possible.   Of all the data in the report, which is a very interesting read, this graph gave something to digest on the shift in our world.

Figure 5.4: Time spent on the internet, sleeping more than 7 hours a night most nights, frequency of in-person social interaction across 7 activities, and general happiness, standardized (Z) scores, 8th and 10th graders, Monitoring the Future, 2006-2017

The conclusion of Jean M. Twenge (author of this section of the report):

Thus, the large amount of time adolescents spend interacting with electronic devices may have direct links to unhappiness and/or may have displaced time once spent on more beneficial activities, leading to declines in happiness. It is not as certain if adults have also begun to spend less time interacting face-to-face and less time sleeping. However, given that adults in recent years spent just as much time with digital media as adolescents do (Common Sense Media, 2016), it seems likely that their time use has shifted as well. Future research should explore this possibility.

Thus, the fundamental shift in how adolescents spend their leisure time may explain the marked decline in adolescent well-being after 2011. It may also explain some of the decline in happiness among adults since 2000, though this conclusion is less certain. Going forward, individuals and organizations focused on improving happiness may turn their attention to how people spend their leisure time.

Like any good scientist, Jean isn’t drawing the conclusion without further data.  This is exactly what Humans Above Technology wants to do next.  To explore these correlations.    Much of the what has been talked about here is around digital media, internet,  connectedness and happiness, but what about when we put robots and AI into the mix?  What will be the impact then?   Shouldn’t we at least look before we leap?


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  1. Nice Blog. Interesting that the US is low low on the happiness-o-meter. Our use of technology is no more (or less) than Finland I would not think. There must be other factors

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