Happiness Hierarchy

Article published on Nov. 23, 2008
Article published on Nov. 23, 2008
A few days ago Eurofound published a resume of 2nd European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS). This survey highlights the social and economic policy challenges that the European Union faces today following the two recent rounds of enlargement.

The final result and the statistics were made on the basis of both objective and subjective elements and it makes the impression that we Hungarians are the champions of pessimism in Europe.

First of all, it's quite difficult to define what is quality of life. It means different things for everyone. Rather, it can be seen as some kind of esoterical conception and using this phenomenon could be a vague meaningless term. If we use statistics, we usually work with numbers and prefers to come out with some near muddled charts and graphs. But if you have to make a survey on subjective indicators such as happiness, life satisfaction or life fulfilment, all these things are much more complicated.

In my point of view this recent study was not unnecessary. I know a lot of people who think this is an easy question and we do not have to make it so complicated, just look at the ratio of suicides and we get the final answer. Well, suicide rate is a really good indicator but do not forget that the conformation of this index is conditioned by many other not really well-known things (eg. nowadays most people focus on economical merits but according to Durkheim there are relations between suicide and religion; and influence of changing social roles and gender topics as well shoud be bear in mind).

When we check the result of this EQLS we can see some interesting data

- in general, citizens of the European Union are satisfied with the quality of their lives. On the other hand Hungarians are famous for their tendency to see the glass half empty. Well, I know about myself that I am disposed to see the glass half empty, not half full. But I am sure this is not only a Hungarian tendency.

- on a scale from one to ten, Europeans rate their life satisfaction with a 7, and 7.5 for happiness; while Hungarians give themselves a measly 5.6

- only Macedonians and Bulgarians see their lives in a duller light than Hungarians

- Scandinavian citizens are the most satisfied

Eurofound notes a strong correlation between perceptions of health, income and happiness. This is not a surprise in this world! Who is ready to size up the cost of a nice sunny morning or a funny shaped cloud while he is on his way to the workplace? We should accept that those indicators what were used in this survey are related to our material world. Of course it is understandable that the survey is based on an economic concept as according to the Maslow-pyramid our first and most important goal is to reach a level of satisfaction in the material world.

The main results of the 2nd EQLS will be published in spring 2009. Till then we can take this quiz just for fun and later simply think about the power of smiling!