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Happiness

May 17, 2010 – 11:08 am

While I am a great believer that surveys are just space fillers for lazy journalists (30% of women don’t think their husbands help enough around the house – shock, horror; 52% of men don’t get on with their mother-in-law – well, who’d have guessed it?) – I am as guilty as the rest, because today I’m going to tell you about a new survey called “Global Happiness”.

This particular column-filler – sorry, survey – used a “happiness index” to rate how content 12,500 people in 16 countries across four continents were. The results are hilarious. Spain is the second-happiest country in Europe (who on earth were they asking? pre-salary cut funcionarios who live in rent-fixed VPO flats and produce all their own food?), after Romania. Romania?

Anyway, the main source of pleasure is partner and family – catching up with loved ones in the evening (39%). So far, so predictable (although I would have added chocolate, personally). They specify “real world contact”, as opposed to virtual world, I suppose. Only 14% said the highlight of their day was watching TV, with chatting online 5%. Spain’s a different story, but internet use here has only boomed in the last few years and, like TV and pop music, they’ll be catching up for years to come.

Now what surprises me is that there wasn’t a question in this mind-blowingly innovative survey about which soft drink makes you happiest, since it is called “the Coca-Cola Happiness Barometer”. Here is a (predictably cheesy) quote from their senior global executive vice-president and director for brands, marketing, advertising, and other such nonsense: “Despite the online social networking phenomenon, nothing beats quality time with our loved ones or simple pleasures such as sharing a Coke with our nearest and dearest to bring happiness in our lives.” Barf, pass me a cup of pure, clear, natural, unadulterated H2O. Sugary, fake drink rather than see the latest photos of my seldom-seen-friends-in-the-UK’s kids on Facebook? Er…

Then come some bits which deserve a bit less derision. To cheer us up, 38% go out with friends (check), and 22% will give or get a hug (check) – I’d go for both.

Travelling round the world is another big uplifter in mood terms – 37% have itchy feet, while 26% are altruistic enough to say that volunteering to help others is what brings a smile to their face. And apparently, getting a plane (ash cloud and strikes allowing) and visiting old ladies are both higher on the happiness scale than meeing the love of your live (12%). I ask again, just who did they question in this survey? Confirmed bachelors with obscene amounts of Air Miles and VSO veterans who don’t want to settle down? And what about chocolate? It’s much cheaper than travelling, and less time-consuming and more indulgent than volunteering.

Looking at the Spanish part of the survey in more details, 89% of young Spaniards are happy with their lives (presumably those who aren’t unemployed), and chatting (in person) with their friends is the best moment of the day for nearly 50%. Their next favourite activity is chatting online, then listening to music, followed by having a meal with the family. “Maria, dinner time!” “Just a minute, Mama, I’m chatting to Carmen on Facebook, then I’m going to listen to Justin Bieber’s latest song. Then I’ll come and have my dinner.”

Single people, look away now. For 67% of adults, their partner provides them with the most happiness (they’ve obviously warmed to them plenty since they first met them), 51% family and 16% work (swots, or perhaps professional chocolate-tasters).

So which countries come out top for Global Happiness? Mexico (1st), land of drug cartels and daily murders, the Philippines (2nd, Islamic terrorists, election violence, rampant corruption), Argentina (3rd), South Africa (4th, let’s hope hosting the World Cup lives up to their expectations) and Romania (5th). The other European countries in the survey were Belgium, France, Italy and the UK.

Basically, I don’t believe these surveys are worth the paper they’re written on, or the millions of cans of fizz which sponsor such time-wasting nonsense. But they aren’t half fun to write about, so I’m not complaining. Now, let’s see who’s posted some new photos on Facebook, before I have a hug with my son…

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