happiness wealthiest sunny social fabric

Most young do not know neighbors
neighbors retired

Happiest States Revealed by New Research

“The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself,” wrote Benjamin Franklin. A new report finds a close match between individual happiness and objective quality-of-life measures. But others say happiness is more nearly tied to relationships -- some of which are missing in the lives of British youth. We trim, blend, and append three 2009 articles from: (1) LiveScience.com, Dec 17, on new research by Jeanna Bryner; (2) Christian Science Monitor, Dec 17, on critics by Daniel B. Wood; and (3) BBC, Dec 4, on neighbors.

by Jeanna Bryner and by Daniel B. Wood and by BBC

New research on state-level happiness puts Florida and two other sunshine states in the Top 5, while Minnesota doesn't show up until number 26. The research also showed for the first time that a person's self-reported happiness matches up with objective measures of wellbeing.

The happy-states list, however, doesn't match up with a similar ranking reported last month, which found that the most tolerant and wealthiest states were, on average, the happiest.

Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England says their study is based on raw averages and so doesn't provide meaningful results.

Rather, Oswald and Stephen Wu, an economist at Hamilton College in New York, statistically created a representative American. That way they could take, for example, a 38-year-old woman with a high-school diploma and making medium-wage who is living anywhere and transplant her to another state and get a rough estimate of her happiness level.

The happiest states:
1. Louisiana; 2. Hawaii; 3. Florida; 4. Tennessee; 5. Arizona; 6. Mississippi; 7. Montana; 8. South Carolina; 9. Alabama; 10. Maine

The scientists caution, however, that data for the top spot, Louisiana, were collected before the disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Their results come from a comparison of two data sets of happiness levels, one that relied on participants' self-reported wellbeing and the other an objective measure that took into account a state's weather, home prices, and other factors that are known reasons to frown (or smile). The results showed the two measures matched up.

They were also surprised at the least happy states, New York and Connecticut, which are industrialized and for many residents highly prosperous -- which also means congestion, bad air quality, and high house prices.

“Just because two things seem to be correlated ... i.e., they go up and down together ... does not mean that one caused the other,” says B.J. Gallagher, author of Why Don’t I Do the Things I Know Are Good for Me? “It does not mean that nice weather, a good job market, and clean air are what make people feel happy.”

“Millions of people live in miserable climates, with lousy job markets, low standards of living, poor schools, and many other unfavorable factors ... and they are still happy,” says Gallagher.

“This new study reports that the happiest people are those in Hawaii and in Louisiana. Hawaii has a wonderful climate and Louisiana has a terrible climate. So is it the climate or the tight family structures and strong community ties? I would argue that it’s the latter, not the former, but their social fabric: Hawaii is heavily Asian with strong family ties and good community values and Louisiana’s background is heavily influenced by French Catholics and Haitians, also with strong social ties.”

JJS: So if connections do make us happy, pity the poor young Brits who don’t know many in their community.

A third of young people do not know the names of their neighbors, while nearly all over-65s do, a survey suggests. Some 96% of the over-65s said they knew their neighbors' names, but the figure fell to 66% among those aged under 25.

The study for housing provider Circle Anglia suggests 56% of adults aged above 65 like being with neighbors, compared with 26% of those below 25.

Older people were also more likely to chat to neighbors in the street. The proportion who said they chatted to their neighbors regularly was 82% among the over-65s, but 44% for the under-25s.

Andrew Clarkson, from Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, contacted the BBC to say he felt modern housing design prevented people from building relationships with neighbors. Fences at the back of homes built in the 1930s allowed people to chat. "I am now living in a newly-built house and all the fences are two meters tall.”

However, Ginia Hickley, of London, suggested most over 65s were retired and had more time to chat, whereas many working people spent much less time at home.

Some 91% of the older people said they trusted neighbors to look after deliveries in their absence, but this proportion fell to 62% among the younger group.

Some 38% of all those surveyed said a diverse neighborhood benefited the community, compared with 28% who said it did not. A higher proportion of young people, 47%, agreed it was beneficial than in the older age group - 34%.

Circle Anglia executive director of operations Andy Doylend said: "Older people are far more likely to suffer from social isolation.

JJS: If you want close, livable communities, try geonomics. Using public recovery of site rents, a locality keeps owners from speculative withholding of prime locations, keeps the stock of housing high and thus affordable, and keeps neighborhoods stable, a key to low-crime and happiness.


Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Those French know how to live

The lack of autonomy should be shocking

Not sharing society's surplus creates problems

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