Are Americans happy?
The government wants to know.
Now that it’s tax season, the government has a lot of questions for you: How much money do you make, and how do you spend it? How many dependents do you have? Have you purchased a car or a refrigerator with a good energy rating?
Soon the feds may be asking a more surprising question: Are you happy?
The US government is considering the establishment of a happiness index. As noted by NPR, Canada, France, Britain, and Bhutan in South Asia have already added measures of citizen happiness to official statistics.
More from MSN Living: 40 time-saving tips
The reaction of an unhappy cynic may fall somewhere along the lines of, “Yeah, like you care.” But when government programs and state spending are traced to their core incentives, your happiness turns out to be a major motivator. New bridges and tunnels are built to ease commuting, which is widely cited as a source of anger and frustration; pensions ensure income after retirement, a common cause of anxiety; federal funding of the arts supports the richness of our culture, which contributes to the fullness of one’s life.
Psychologists have long been collecting data on happiness and have a diverse range of studies suggesting both causes and consequences. Sex makes people happy, one shocker of a study found a few months ago. Other recent research has traced contentment to everything from conservatism and entrepreneurship to genetic makeup. Another found, paradoxically, that too much happiness can make you unhappy.
More from MSN Living: 7 easy ways to get better sleep
For the feds, though, happiness is uncharted territory. If a census taker were to ring your doorbell and ask if you were happy, what would you say?
There are objective criteria to describe your income or the number of people living in your home, but quantifying happiness is trickier business. UK data has been culled using a variety of data points based not only on wealth and health but on the quality of friends and social life and on how much time is spent in nature. The World Database of Happiness incorporates many measures to characterize different kinds, durations, and ratings of happiness (“Have you ever felt on top of the world?” How much do any feelings of sadness or depression interfere with your everyday functioning?”).
Would a US happiness index reflect how happy Americans are feeling at the moment they’re asked, or how they feel about life in general? You can have family and friends and love and contentment aplenty, but if you’ve just banged your head on something sharp, all bets are off. On the flip side, NPR mentions a study in which a good state of mind was reported by subjects who found a nickel shortly before being questioned.
Apparently happiness is fleeting. If you’re lucky, sadness is, too.
An earlier version of this article mistakenly referenced the island of Buton in Indonesia rather than the kingdom of Bhutan.
Photo: Andy Ryan/Getty Images
About fifty percent of America will never be happy, As they are losers for four years
and this time around they sure are crying in their beer, All most as hard as we did
when George W. was swindling us!
How can AMERICANS be happy , with all of the CRAP going on in GOVERNMENT, taking care of all of the WHINERS, all of the ILLEGAL'S cashing in on the hard work done by the LEGAL TAXPAYERS. ON and ON and ON.
Till we get thru the next 4 years maybe then we might be happy.
Of course I am Happy!
I am a Christian.
Aginst me the gates of Hell have no power.
Have a nice day.
inspire: live a better life
Here's some tips to get to happiness going forward in your life.
People 60 to 82 did best on cognitive tasks before 10:30am.
Lucille Ball was born in 1911, and though we lost her long ago, her legacy as America's favorite redhead lives on through the timeless classic, "I Love Lucy." People of all generations still enjoy Lucy's antics as much as they did over 60 years ago when the show first premiered.
Summer is coming to an end, and in a few weeks, kids will be forced to trade in their beach bags for backpacks. But just because the season is fading away doesn't mean the memories from the past few months have to disappear with it.
Confidence and perceived competence are key, study finds.
Features lead to assumptions about character, study says.
Great gear for an afternoon spent shoreside.
Read on for surefire strategies to boost your bliss.
Use these bucket-list ideas to enjoy the little time you have left.
Study points to benefits of improved living conditions.
Don’t leave home without these must-have items.
Handshakes spread 20 times more germs, study says.