Are We Too Pessimistic About Happiness?

I was diddling around with some stuff after reading that New Zealand will henceforth be prioritizing happiness—“well-being and life satisfaction”—over economic growth, and came across this scatterplot about perceived happiness vs. actual happiness:

In every single country, the average estimate of happiness is far lower than actual reported happiness. Every single country! In the US, 90% of people say they’re happy, but the average guess is that only 50 percent of people say they’re happy. Is this because:

  1. We are really lousy at estimating the happiness of others?
  2. We implicitly assume that poor people must be unhappy, and there are a lot of poor people?

         or

  1. People lie a lot (or delude themselves) about how happy they are when pollsters ask?

My guess is that it’s a lot of (a) and a little bit of (c).

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Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

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So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

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