by Mad Dog
turns out the happiest people are in Denmark. The most bummed out are in
Moldavia. I know, it’s hard to believe that a country with mold in its
name would have happiness problems, but it’s true.
||According to Disneyland,
it’s the Happiest Place on Earth. And why shouldn’t it be? They’ve
created an environment without any icky reality other than the long
lines and number of paychecks it costs to go there, it’s filled with
smiling, glowing, happy faces even though most of them are permanently
painted onto giant paper mache heads of cartoon characters, and
they’ve spent more advertising bucks branding it than the gross
domestic product of any country other than the ones in which they have a
theme park. Yet for all that it turns out not to be the Happiest Place
on Earth after all. Denmark is. At least that’s what the World
Database of Happiness would have you believe. Poor Walt must be rolling
over in his cryogenic chamber right now.
Yes, there really is a World Database
of Happiness. And why shouldn’t there be? All kinds of databases live
online, including the Internet Movie Database, the Internet Pinball
Machine Database, and Random Access Memory, which catalogs nearly 23,000
anonymous memories people have posted because, well, if they wrote it in
their private diary none of the Facebook friends they don’t know would
get to see it, and what fun would that be? Then of course there’s
Google, which already has all this information catalogued in its own
database, not to mention your personal information. And mine. You might
as well face it, Google knows everything, it just doesn’t know what to
do with it. Yet.
While it’s true we’re only five places happier than the
Brits, some days you need to take whatever good news you can get.
So for now, if you want to know who’s happy in the world, go to
the World Database of Happiness (www.worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl).
That’s where you’ll find out what happens when a Dutch researcher
and his cohorts sift through various surveys, studies, tea leave
readings, and dart board tossings to come up with a happiness rating for
each country. It turns out the happiest people are in Denmark, followed
by Switzerland and Austria. The most bummed out are in Moldavia,
Zimbabwe, and Tanzania. I know, it’s hard to believe that a country
with mold in its name, another with an inflation rate of 66,000%, and
one where everyone’s sick of telling people that the third letter in
their country’s name isn’t an “r” would have happiness problems,
but it’s true. And it sure won’t help lift them out of their
doldrums to find out how low they rank. After all, there’s a certain
amount of self-fulfilling prophecy to these rankings. Any country that
ranks high is going to be elated, while those near the bottom will get
depressed, thus reinforcing each one’s relative (un)happiness. I’m
not sure how this affects those of us who are in the middle of the list.
You know, like the United States.
The U.S. came in at number 17 on the
list. Keep in mind though that this was calculated before the collapse
of the housing market, the hourly debates about whether we’re going
into a recession or we’re already in one, the six-year-long
presidential primary, and the cancellation of the Montel Williams show.
Heck, any one of those is enough to send us tumbling down the chart to
the unhappiness level of Iraq, which thanks to our help in eliminating
their yucky old infrastructure sits near the bottom of the list at
number 81. But hey, at least we’re happier than the English. While
it’s true we’re only five places happier than the Brits, some days
you need to take whatever good news you can get.
if you want to increase your happiness you have several choices. You
could move to Denmark. You could stop reading research studies and
online databases. Or you could give your money away
This has got to be demoralizing for the British, especially
coming on the heels of the new edition of Rough Guide to England
which calls the country irritating, insular, and “a nation of
overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts.” The editors had better
watch out. If the English ever sober up they're going to turn off Big
Brother, struggle to get out of their chairs, and waddle after the
guide's authors to kick their bloody bums. Actually what they’ll
probably do is drown their sorrows and go to work, at least if you
believe a recent poll that discovered one in three English workers has
shown up for work with a hangover and more than one in 10 has been drunk
on the job. Now that’s what I call a happy bunch.
So how do you define a country’s
happiness, anyway? According to the World Database of Happiness it’s
how much people like the life they lead. Is it a fun job? A family that
makes Father Knows Best look dysfunctional? Low taxes, free
health care, and all the Danish butter cookies you can eat? One thing we
know is that, contrary to popular belief, money doesn’t buy happiness.
At least not according to a study published in the journal Science
that found happiness didn’t correlate with how much money you have or
spend, but rather with how much you give away. Seriously. Thus if you
want to increase your happiness you have several choices. You could move
to Denmark. You could stop reading research studies and online
databases. Or you could give your money away. In case you opt for the
last one, I accept PayPal.
©2008 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them and be happy.