According to the World Database of Happiness – a highly subjective research project based out of Rotterdam’s Erasmus University – the world’s happiest country is Denmark, closely followed by Switzerland and Austria. Denmark borders Sweden and Germany and is home to 5.5 million people as well as the world’s best butter cookies. According to the National Institute of Public Health, the average life expectancy is 75.9 years for males and 80.5 years for women.
The continuous register of scientific research on subjective appreciation of life – as the Database is subtitled – lists Zimbabwe at the bottom, along with Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova and Tanzania rounding out the five most miserable countries on the planet. Zimbabwe borders South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana. It is home to roughly 12 million people who’ve been subjected to rampant human rights abuses, public health epidemics, and crazy hyperinflation under the dictatorial presidency of Robert Mugabe. According to the U.N. World Health Organization, the life expectancy is 37 years for males and 34 years for women.
Not to get all metaphysical, but what is happiness anyway?
Technically it’s defined as the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his or her life-as-a-whole favorably. In other words: how much he/she likes the life he leads.
And more importantly, is all happiness just relative?
An expat friend of mine was able to put it into perfect perspective for me, while also crystallizing the differences between our two countries: “In Russia,” she said, “we don’t expect to be happy. So when happiness does from time to time visit it is a cause for celebration. Because who knows how long it will last or if it will ever come again. In America, however, everyone expects to be happy and acts as though it were an entitlement.”
I suddenly get why so many of us snarf a Danish with our morning coffee.