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Natural Awakenings

Happiness Index: Social Progress a New Standard of National Wealth

Feb 01, 2010 03:00AM

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is encouraging countries to join in a “great revolution” in the way growth is tracked. Two Nobel economists recently completed a report recommending a shift from measuring progress solely based on a nation’s gross domestic product to accounting for the society’s well-being and sustainability. In effect, Sarkozy thinks that any government’s primary objective should be the greatest happiness of its citizens.

According to a World Values Survey by the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research, between 1981 and 2007, happiness and general life satisfaction has risen substantially in 40 of 52 countries tracked. Democratization and rising social tolerance are primarily responsible, followed by economic growth. “The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives,” says survey director Ronald Inglehart.

Rising happiness and well-being are most notable in India, Ireland, Mexico, Puerto Rico and South Korea, with recent spikes in ex-communist countries, as well as Nigeria and Turkey. In 2007, Denmark ranked as the happiest nation, with the United States 16th.

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