The Daily Dose Blog The Daily Dose Blog Home

Are Americans happy?

The government wants to know.

By Rich_Maloof Feb 13, 2013 5:39PM

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?

Photo: Andy Ryan/Getty ImagesThe 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.

More from The Daily Dose:
The most common job for women?
Chinese New Year: Which animal are you?
Boy Scout gay policy: What would change?

Subscribe to the Daily Dose

Love content like this? Friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and find us on Pinterest

Photo: Andy Ryan/Getty Images

Feb 14, 2013 9:55AM

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!

Feb 13, 2013 8:29PM
oh no!!!!!!! another useless government program, I wonder what this would cost the taxpayers. Maybe Obama would let us use his Acorn discount!!!!!
Feb 13, 2013 8:25PM
'Happiness Index' one more way to gather information about our private lives....
Feb 13, 2013 8:23PM
Happy with what? Happy that I am struggling to get by, happy that I have a job, happy that I exercise and take care of myself, happy with my girlfriend and dog, happy with the government? Im happy to a certain extent, the things I can control but unhappy with the direction the US is headed and some of the stupidity of Americans. 
Feb 13, 2013 7:51PM
Bhutan, the country, not Buton, the island in Indonesia, began measuring the country's progress in terms of GNH - Gross National Happiness.  The metric consists of sustainable development, cultural values, preservation of environment and good governance. 
Feb 13, 2013 7:49PM
Is this question posed toward individuals in POT Smoking States, or just the rest of us in the Real World?   POT Smokers are very happy I would think, and the rest of us having to face reality and the Chief Pot Smoker in the POT House, er I mean White House as simply miserable.  
Feb 13, 2013 7:47PM

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.

Feb 13, 2013 7:39PM

Of course I am Happy!


I am a Christian.


Aginst me the gates of Hell have no power.


Have a nice day.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

inspire: live a better life

  • Off-season vacation destinations

    The 10 best off-season vacation deals in the world

    Summer and winter tend to hog all the glory when it comes to travel high seasons. Sure, you want to soak up all the time at the beach you can during the summer, and you just want to escape the cold during the last months of the year.

  • Best places for fall foliage

    The 16 best places to see fall foliage

    Who just wants to stand around and watch the red and gold leaves slowly fall from their tree branches to the ground as we move from summer to fall? Instead, take in the changing seasons while you're on the move.

  • 30 things you learn in your 30s

    30 things that will (probably) happen in your 30s

    In September, I'll turn 38. I'm at the age now where, when people ask how old I am, it takes me a minute to remember. I don't know if that's because I've already been 37 different ages and it's hard to keep straight which one I am now, or if it's because I'm in denial, or if it's because I am going senile. Maybe a combination of all of the above. Regardless, my 30s have flown by and soon they will be but a memory. So, in an effort to preserve the memory I have left (or at least keep a record of it), and to celebrate what has been an amazing decade so far, here are 30 things that have happened to me in my 30s (and will probably happen to you too):

  • Great travel tech gadgets

    The 8 best travel tech accessories for every trip

    Traveling doesn't have to be stressful. And what you can fit in your carry-on can make all the difference (and not just a fresh pair of socks), especially when you get that low battery signal.

  • The Science

    5 surprising ways to live longer

    Volunteering (and these other rituals) might be just as good as exercise when it comes to extending your life.

  • Don’t hit snooze

    7 cures for a case of the Mondays

    Use these tricks to set a better tone for the rest of the week.

  • King's Night: Amsterdam, Holland

    The 10 wildest celebrations in the world

    Whether it involves a food fight, mermaids or a torch-lit procession, people the world over know how to have a good time. Here are some of the biggest, boldest, booziest celebrations around, along with some tips to get the full experience.

  • green brain image (Courtesy of Newser)

    Scientists turn bad memories to happy ones

    Research could mean more effective treatment for human disorders.

  • Cultura\Getty Images(Cultura\Getty Images)

    4 reasons journaling is good for you

    An entry a day might keep the doctor away (or at least the shrink).

  • Getty Images(Getty Images)

    Appreciating the Small Things in Life

    One woman's shout-outs to daily moments of joy — and how to cultivate them.

  • Woman jogging (Photo: Huffington Post)
  • Getty Images // Magazine

    Little ways to feel healthier and happier

    Our best health and fitness tips including the one move that tones all, berry news, and more.

about rich maloof
buzzing now on msn living
inspire videos
editor's picks