Tag Archives: happiness

Guess who’s getting happier and who’s not?

A couple of years ago I commented on the 2015 World Happiness Report, which showed Russia rising up the rankings. The 2017 version is now available, and for Russia it provides yet more good news.

I’m not convinced that ‘happiness’ is the right word to describe what the report measures, but it is certainly measuring something connected with general well-being and life satisfaction. Each country’s score is based on 8 factors: GPD per capita in terms of purchasing power parity; healthy life expectancy; social support, measured by answers to the question ‘If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you?’; self-evaluated freedom to make life choices; generosity, determined by charitable giving; perceptions of corruption; ‘positive affect … defined as the average of laughter and enjoyment’; and ‘negative affect … defined as the average of previous day affect measures for worry, sadness, and anger.’

Two years ago, Switzerland was no. 1 in the world, and Russia was ranked 64th. This time, Norway is top and Russia is up to 49th.

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More remarkably, Russia is ranked no. 7 in the world in terms of changes in happiness over the past 10 years. Russia is still some way behind the Western European and North American countries which dominate the top of the table, but it is catching up.

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This is all the more remarkable given that Russia has suffered two major economic recessions since 2007, meaning that the GDP element of the happiness measurement has not increased. This in turn means that the more subjective elements of the measure must have improved quite significantly. Russians aren’t richer than they were a decade ago, but they apparently evaluate their lives as being much better. Either they’ve been thoroughly bamboozled by state propaganda or something is actually going well for them.

By way of contrast, let us look at the bottom of the table of changes in happiness, 2005-2007 to 2014-2016:

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Ukraine’s dismal performance suggests that, at least in the short term, Euromaidan has had a highly negative effect on Ukrainians’ state of mind. Meanwhile, although France and the United States remain highly ranked overall (31st and 14th), they are falling down the table fairly fast.

Make of all this what you will. As I said, I’m not entirely sure what this is really measuring. But if you’re looking for an explanation of Vladimir Putin’s popularity, the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of Marine Le Pen, this report perhaps provides at least part of the answer.

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Yet More Happiness

In recent posts I have linked to surveys showing that Russians are increasingly happy. Further evidence for this comes with the publication of the 2015 World Happiness Report. According to this, Switzerland is the happiest country in the world, while most of the top 20 countries are in Western Europe and North America. Russia is in the middle of the pack, being ranked number 64.

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This is not a particularly high ranking, and indicates that Russians still do not enjoy the same quality of life as people in the West. However, the situation is getting better. A second table in the report measures changes in happiness relative to the time period 2005-2007. This places Russia 20th in the world in terms of improved happiness.

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In the same period, according to the report, many Western states became substantially less happy, especially Italy and Greece, but also including the United States of America. Thus, while Russians are still not on average as happy as Americans, they are, according to this report, catching up.

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Happy Days

In a recent post, I discussed the spiritual malaise which afflicted the Russian people during the Soviet era, leading to rampant alcoholism and early death. If anybody doubts that contemporary Russia is successfully overcoming this malaise, then the results of two surveys published last week should enlighten them.

The first survey was produced by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, VTsIOM (Vserossiiskii Tsentr Izucheniia Obshchestvennogo Mneniia). Its overall index subtracts the percentage of people dissatisfied with their lives from those fully or partly satisfied. As seen from the results below, the overall index has declined from a peak one year ago (perhaps associated with a Crimean annexation feel-good factor), but within that index the percentage of Russians declaring that they are ‘fully or mostly’ satisfied with their lives is currently just below the all-time high registered in February of this year, and nearly twice what it was ten years ago. It seems that Russians are lot happier than they used to be.

Continue reading Happy Days