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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Statistics reinforce my happy choice for vacation destination

After enjoying a fun vacation in Puerto Rico, I was not surprised to see this country* topping the list in a worldwide ranking by happiness reported in the April 2007 issue of Minnesota Business. It stems from a study by the World Values Survey that questioned such things as "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?" See the combined index of happiness and well-being (positive versus negative) ranked by country (or the original Word doc).

The author of the Minnesota Business article, Tor Dahl, added 2006 per capita income to the mix. This reveals some surprising statistics, such as Mexicans earning less than half the income of Spaniards, yet reporting twice the level of happiness and well-being. However, using Design-Expert® software’s historical regression tools, I find overall a significant (p<0.0001) positive relation of income with happiness and well-being. Luxembourg, which at $65,900 per capita income (’06) exceeds the next richest country (Norway!) by 50 percent, stands out as an extremely high leverage point. If ignored, the non-linear plateauing of happiness and well-being becomes insignificant. In my opinion, though, this makes sense – at some point more money probably cannot buy more happiness.

The quest for the secrets of happiness will no doubt continue with little chance of a totally satisfying outcome. Princeton professors Daniel Kahneman and Alan B. Krueger in their Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being present a list of variables which are correlated with global reports of life satisfaction and happiness, among which is an “unfakeable smile.” Isn’t that wonderful! :)

*(I enjoyed a good chuckle calling Earthlink before my vacation in San Juan, Puerto Rico to get their local dial-up accesses for internet. Their representative could not find Puerto Rico on the list. “Is it a United State?” he asked. “Not exactly,” I replied. “Well, then, it must be a country – correct?” “No.” I then tried to briefly explain the status of Puerto Rico as a self-governing commonwealth – possibly even more difficult to explain than why their people seem to be so happy. Anyways, the Earthlink rep pleased me greatly by saying he found two access numbers for San “Chew-on.” Evidently this fellow’s native language was not Spanish, but in a case like this, I do as Bobbie McFerrin says – “Don’t worry, be happy”.)


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