World trip, own workshop, dream house, commitment to a project without having to make a living or help other people: People’s dreams of happiness are as varied as they are themselves.
Is it possible to win luck in gambling?
What would you do if you won the lottery? Treat yourself to something nice, share the profits or donate to a good cause? Many an average earner travels to the land of big daydreams when filling out his lottery ticket.
Money brings luck – many people think so. With this assumption the lotteries finally earn their money. Who would play at all, if he did not hope for great happiness through a blessing of money? Although the chances of winning are virtually hopeless at around 1 in 140 million, people dream of great luck: 7.3 million German citizens play the lottery regularly. But – is the dream possibly better than reality? Do you ever get happier when you get rich?
Ed Diener is considered a leading researcher in the field of subjective well-being. He has investigated the connection between income and happiness and refutes fantasies of happiness through big money. The Gallup Institute’s senior researcher found that the richest Americans, who own many times their employees, are only slightly happier than these. Why?
Poor but sexy?
Nobody who feels great hunger would label his stingy neighbour as “horny”, nor his growling stomach as “sexy”. Advertising slogans such as these can confidently be taken as an obvious indicator of the lush ignorance of affluent societies.
According to the Gallup Institute’s latest World Happiness Report 2019, Chad is home to the world’s unhappiest people – followed by Niger, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Iran, Benin, Liberia, Guinea, Palestinian Territories and Congo.
The people there are plagued by great concerns: their country’s economy has been in deep recession since the fall in oil prices in 2014, living standards continue to fall and almost 6 million of their 15 million citizens live in extreme poverty. The study reflects violence, displacement and the “breakdown of basic services that have affected thousands of families,” Gallup wrote. About 72% of the people in the country said that they had difficulties to afford food at some point during the year. Chad was also unable to access the Internet for most of 2018 after the government closed it down.
In happiness research one speaks of the “happiness paradox”. This says that prosperity is a messenger of good fortune, but not wealth. Stavors Drakopoulos examines the relationship between the level of income and the level of happiness of people.
The results of his international studies confirm that the level of income has an influence on the feeling of happiness – but only until the money is sufficient to afford a life without need. Those who already live in prosperity and get even more money do not get more zest for life at the same time. It seems that there is a point of “monetary saturation” where more money does not bring new joy. But how much money does a person need to be happy?
Poor, sad, angry and worried?
Professor Habib Tiliouine from the University of Oran in Algeria found something astonishing in his studies.
Life satisfaction and subjective feelings of happiness are generally lower in Algeria than in highly developed countries. But – the dissatisfaction cannot be explained exclusively by a low standard of living. Tiliouine collected data from different parts of the country and found that the poorer people of the province of Adar – which lies deep in the Sahara – were unexpectedly happier than their fellow citizens in the more developed, modern and richer areas – such as in the province of Oran, in the north of the country.
Security and basic services are without doubt a guarantee for happiness. But anyone who concludes from this that among the richest people in the world there are also the happiest is mistaken.
The researcher Christian Kellner of the British University of Southampton found out in an experimental study with more than 1300 test persons that money blessing makes even stingy. Does this mean that poorer people are more generous and therefore poorer societies are happier? Is great happiness to be found where no great possessions are preserved, possibly increased, but where they want to be guarded in any case?
Concern nests right in the deep heart, There it works secret pains, There it sway restlessly and disturbs air and rest; It always covers itself with new masks, It may appear as house and yard, as wife and child, As fire, water, dagger and poison; You tremble above all that which does not hit, And what you never lose, you must always weep. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust: A Tragedy – Chapter 4 )
In an ever smaller world, developing countries rarely have any choice but to face and adapt to modernity. But – does modernity also give people a better life?
The happiness of the world
The Gallup study confirms Tiliouine’s findings globally: in the approximately 150,000 interviews, more than a third said they were stressed. Emotions, such as sorrow and grief, also increased worldwide. Around 39 percent of those surveyed said they were worried, sad or angry. Three out of ten interview partners even suffered from physical pain. Not even half of them said they had learned or done something interesting.
Paraguay leads the list of countries with the personal positive experiences that were asked in the interviews. Followed by the competition from Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras. How so? Despite the high levels of poverty and violence in these nations? The study seems to reflect “the cultural tendency of these regions to focus on the positive aspects of life”, the report says. This suggests that the view of the world and the mere will to feel happiness is an essential factor in life satisfaction.
This is also confirmed by studies from Finland: In the country ranking, which also takes into account factors such as gross domestic product, life expectancy, government system and economy, Finland leads as the happiest country in the world – for the second time.
What makes the Finns so happy? The social psychologist Jennifer De Paola from the University of Helsinki has investigated which topics the Finns associate with the concept of happiness in social media. She came to the conclusion that mainly pictures with friends and family, but also pets and impressions from leisure time are posted in social media under the hashtag happiness. Obviously, the inner attitude plays an elementary role in the search for a happy life, besides the existential basic care.
Not together on world tour: money and happiness
Wealth is unequally distributed throughout the world. As well as the happiness felt. The results of the Gallup study point to a growing global imbalance in people’s emotions. – Human joy is as unfairly distributed as the treasures of the world: both in national and international comparison.
As expected, people whose monetary means are not sufficient to meet basic needs such as food, shelter and security are unhappy. For these people, more income actually brings more emotional well-being.
But as soon as the existential needs are satisfied – which is the case for most people in the industrial nations – other aspects become relevant.
It seems that great wealth turns against its owners: More property does not bring them more luck. As soon as we are provided for and live safely, suddenly other values are at stake: the relationship between freedom and connectedness, quality of life, trust and personal relationships.
The paradox of the relationship between money and happiness is reflected in the fact that in the most prosperous and secure countries, it is not the people with the happiest experiences in the world who live there. It is precisely there that the widespread opinion is that life is becoming increasingly difficult and that the environment, economy and democracy are only going downhill.
According to the Gallup study, a clear downward trend in the feeling of happiness can be observed in the countries of the western world as a whole. In Western Europe, for example, only 11% of people are happy according to the survey. Pessimism dominates the thinking of many people in the industrialised nations.
It seems as if a kind of feeling of powerlessness is spreading exactly where objectively the greatest possibilities for personal happiness lie. In these countries it is more likely to die from a sugar-containing drink than from a military conflict, as the “Global Burden of Disease” study by the Harvard School of Public Health shows:
If that is not paradoxical, then what is?