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The World Happiness Database: Costa Rica takes the lead

The World Database of Happiness collects data on relative life-satisfaction and analyzes it.
The World Database of Happiness collects data on relative life-satisfaction and analyzes it.
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The positive aspects of humanity are increasing in popularity among sociologists everywhere (see the sidebar for my recent post on Georgia State’s CBN declaration of an ongoing study of these aspects), and nowhere else is this as clearly seen as in the World Database of Happiness.

A recent editorial in the New York Times by one of my personal favorites, Nicholas Kristof, talks about how consistently, Costa Rica is ranked as one of the – if not the – happiest nations in the world. Kristof explains part of why this may be, with the help of sociologists: Costa Rica has all but ridden themselves of an army, and instead invests a great deal of their money into education.

So what exactly is this World Database of Happiness (WDH), and what do they look at to measure such an abstract term? Well, first off, the WDH is a ongoing register of research dedicated to people’s happiness ratings in a number of arenas. It complies a great deal of data from a number of studies related to the topic and attempts to make sense of it (a great feat, as anyone who has done something on even a smaller basis will immediately acknowledge).

The database defines happiness as “degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his/her life-as-a-whole favorably.” The way in which the researchers measure happiness has been standardized, as well, and the accepted terms of measurement are as follows: 1) focus, 2) time-reference, 3) mode of observation, 4) rating-scale type, 5) rating-scale range and 6) variation in wording. Each measure has a unique code.

This is definitely worth checking out (follow the link above) for all, not just those with an interest in sociology. With this kind of report, it really makes one reconsider what it is that makes one happy (at least based on the standards of the WDH). I heartily encourage all readers to read through Kristof’s editorial and to check out the database itself.  

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