Gallup Positivity Survey Shocker … Material Wealth Does Not Buy Happiness!

Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton in their 2010 paper, “High Income Improves Evaluation of Life But Not Emotional Well-being”, concluded from an analysis of 450,000 responses of Americans to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index “that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being”.

A newly published Gallup survey that measured positive emotions in 148 countries and areas in 2011 supported this conclusion. They asked the following five basic questions; Did you feel well-rested yesterday? Were you treated with respect all day yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?

They found that Latin Americans were the most positive in general. Panama was 1st overall with 85% of Panamanians polled (despite ranking only 90th on a GDP per capita basis globally) responding yes to all five questions. They were followed closely by Paraguay, El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica. Singaporeans are the least positive worldwide with just 46% answering yes to all five despite ranking 5th on a GDP per capita basis and were out ranked by war torn countries such as Iraq at 50% and Afghanistan at 55%. 80% of Canadians (11th overall) and 76% of Americans (curiously 33rd place, the same as the Chinese) while 74% of French, German and Finnish (the same as impoverished Somaliland) responded yes to all five.

While the Gallup poll may skewed by what critics claim is a cultural bias of Latin Americans and others to avoid negative statements regardless of what one really believes or thinks, Jon Clifton, a partner at Gallup, said skeptics shouldn’t “undervalue the expression of positive emotion as an important phenomenon in and of itself” and that “those expressions are a reality, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to quantify. I think there is higher positive emotionality in these countries.”

What are common traits of the top scoring societies? A proclivity to focus on family, friends and quality of life with a level of relative material well-being and the perception of personal security.

Happy New Year!