economics | December 19, 2012

John Ibbitson: New Gallup Poll Shows Money May Not Buy Happiness

We may feel a bit stressed trying to get everything done before the holidays, but John Ibbitson says that many of us have a lot to be happy about—and we should slow down and enjoy that good news in time for the festive season. According to a new Gallup poll, 80 per cent of Canadians agree with him, and are content with their lives. The poll, which Ibbitson discusses in a new Globe and Mail column, asked respondents in 148 countries to rate how good of a day they had the day before the poll was taken. Canada ranked 11th on the list, with 80 per cent of respondents answering that they enjoyed their day. The United States ranked closely behind with a score of 79 per cent.

Out of all the countries surveyed, the top ten were all developing countries—with eight of the ten being Latin American nations. Countries that experienced a high level of poverty and violence ranked the lowest on the list, not surprisingly. However, what Ibbitson notes as particularly interesting is that "above a certain level, money does not, indeed, buy happiness." As he explains: "Singapore, the fifth wealthiest nation on earth, earned the lowest score of all (46 per cent), while Panama, which ranks 90th in GDP per capita, tied for first." While having no money certainly contributes negatively to people's level of contentment, it turns out that family and community attribute more to happiness than a hefty paycheque does.

Ibbitson is an expert on Canada and Canadian politics; both as the The Globe and Mail's Ottawa Bureau Chief and as the author of such books as The Big Shift:The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, And Culture And What It Means for Our Future. In the article, he examines why Canada ranked so high on the list: citing high levels of personal security and freedom in the country as contributing factors, as well as the large immigrant population. Whatever the reasons, Ibbitson says that it's essential to remember the good things we have in life. Even though it is important to analyze our shortcomings and improve on certain things we may be lack—80 per cent of us are happy. And that, he says, is "not bad at all."

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