The pursuit of happiness is one of the “unalienable rights” declared in the United States Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These immortal words were penned by Thomas Jefferson, based on a similar phrase (which didn’t include happiness) by John Locke. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” or similar phrases appear in the documents of other nations, such as the post-World War II Japanese Constitution.
But Americans are not the world’s happiest people, according to findings just released by the University of Michigan’s World Values Survey. The United States ranks Number 16 among the 97 nations surveyed. Denmark is the happiest place in the world; Zimbabwe, the unhappiest.
Levels of happiness have risen in most nations. The fastest risers include Ireland, Puerto Rico, and South Korea. Americans, however, do not appear to be much happier over the long haul. Happiness dips from 1946 to 1980, and then tilts slightly upwards from 1980 to 2006. But the trend line from 1946 to 2006 is pretty flat.
Democratization and increasing social tolerance are among the key contributors to rising happiness around the world. “The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives,” says Ronald Inglehart, chief architect of the World Values Survey and the new study’s lead author.
There is an explosion of academic research on happiness. Leading universities offer courses on it. One of the most popular courses at Harvard University teaches about happiness, based on a burgeoning academic specialty called “Positive Psychology.” The Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business focuses on how to apply such principles in organizations.
THIS WEEK’s new Quick Poll is one of the two questions asked by the World Values Surveys to determine the happiness rankings. (The other question concerns satisfaction with life.) PLEASE, tell us what you think about happiness and the pursuit of it. Is it an unalienable right of Americans? An unalienable human right? Is the pursuit of happiness really all that important?
CLICK above to add your comment. Or, propose a new topic via the other link at right.