Jan 20, 2006

Irish still happier than most

IRISH people may not be as happy as they thought. New research indicates that Ireland is the sixth happiest place in the world — well down on the top slot it’s become accustomed to.
Professor Ruut Veenhoven, author of a new “life satisfaction index” and a leading academic expert on happiness, has used data from recent surveys that found Ireland topping the table in quality of life to find out how happy it really is.

“Ireland is a wealthy democratic country which has developed economically,” he said. “It’s also small and typically we see that the average happiness level is higher in small countries, probably because democracy functions on a smaller scale.”

According to Veenhoven, a sociologist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, people in Ireland are happy because of the healthy economy and good standard of living.
Veenhoven used data from the World Values Survey of 100,000 people in 90 countries who were asked, on a scale of one to 10, how happy they were. He then modified the average according to “equality of happiness”. Nations with wide differences between the happiest and saddest citizens were pushed down the rankings.

This left Ireland in sixth place after Malta, which topped the table, followed by Denmark, Switzerland and Colombia as joint-second, with Iceland in fifth place.

Recent surveys suggest that life in the republic has never been so good. In November 2004, the Economist magazine named Ireland as the best place to live in the world. The country also came out top in the world quality-of-life index, with 42% of Irish people describing themselves as being “very happy”. In the World Values Survey life satisfaction index for 2004, Ireland came second overall.

The roll call of happy tidings continued with last year’s Dublin-based European Foundation for the Improvement for Living and Working Conditions reporting that Irish people are considerably more optimistic and more satisfied with life than the average European. The research also judged happiness levels and found Ireland to be joint-second in Europe, with Finland, after Denmark.

In Veenhoven’s research, Ireland still performs significantly better in the rankings than Britain. It was below 20 other nations, including far poorer countries.

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