So, we’re not so happy here in BC!
So says a study released this week by Point2 Real Estate which created a happiness index for the hundred largest Census Subdivisions in Canada.
Only one BC city made the top 10; only 2 made the top 20 on the list.
The happiest places? All of the top twenty but the two BC exceptions were in Ontario and Quebec.
Now, that’s a head scratcher.
Was the study credible? It was certainly broad, ranking objective (Statistics Canada) data on thirty different variables in four general categories: Economy and real estate (6 variables); Health and well-being (7 variables); Community and environment (12 variables); and Location and demographics (5 variables). Each of the four categories (not the variables) were given equal weighting.
But can objective data really define happiness? Bhutan claims to be the happiest country on earth (claiming to measure Gross Domestic Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product.) It would not do well on the variables used in the Point2 study, though.
Did anyone ask the people across Canada if they were happy? Or did they just assume that variables such as high real estate prices, unemployment rate, divorce rate, amount of snowfall or rainfall, participation in sports, etc., contributed to or deterred from, happiness?
I wonder what a broad-based study that asked people how happy they were would reveal. I’m betting the rankings would be quite different.
It turns out there is such a study, a worldwide one. In concert with the UN-declared World Happiness Day, March 20 (sorry folks, I missed reporting on that), the annual report of the World Happiness Index was released. That study is based on asking people how happy they claim to be.
For the sixth year in a row, Finland wins the title. All but two of the top 10 are European countries. Canada comes in at #13, with the U.S. close behind at #15 (they actually rose 2 spots in the last year—you figure that one out!) Bhutan didn’t make the top 30.
Is there a correlation between self-reported happiness and objective variables such as those used in the Point2 study? There actually do seem to be some variables that, overall, contribute to happiness.
Quoting from AFAR.com, which carried the article I found on the 2023 World Happiness Report:
“While these results are based entirely on self-reported perceptions of satisfaction, factors that the Happiness Report says contribute to making these life evaluations better in each country include a higher GDP per capita, a strong social support system, higher life expectancy, greater freedom, absence of government and corporate corruption, and charitable giving.”
Those variables bear some but not overwhelming correlation with the Point2 study.
So, let’s not get too down on ourselves over the results of the study.
Then there is the Blue Zone study done by Dan Buettner, a fellow of the National Geographic Society. He found that there are five “blue zones” in the world where, for whatever reason, people tend to be healthier and live longer: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.
Surely that must count for something, right?
The Blue Zone project then pivoted to become a massive, ten-year study to find the happiest places on earth. It found three places in the world that stand out above the rest: Costa Rica (specifically, Cartago province), Singapore and Denmark (also #2 on the World Happiness Index).
What makes for happy people according to Buettner, is, in part, what the World Happiness report also suggested: education, health, stability and trust in institutions, and freedom.
But, he adds, it’s also your social network that produces happiness. Fill it with happy people! he says. “For every new happy person you add to your network, your own chance of happiness increases by 15%.”
That tends to echo the oft repeated: you are the average of your five best friends.
Geography is key, say Buettner: “If you’re living in an unhappy place, move!” It’s the easiest way to get into a happier environment and to surround yourself with happy people.
My city did not make even the top 20 in Canada. And Canada didn’t make Buettner’s top tier.
So, I guess I’m off to Costa Rica!
Maybe I can find some rent 2 own opportunities (for you) there.
Ron’s Top Five
Happiest countries in the world (according to UN’s World Happiness Index)