A study by the European Union has revealed that Irish people are a pretty happy bunch.
With a score of 7.4 out of 10 in the ‘experience of life ranking’ Ireland trails only behind Denmark (the perennial winner) with 8.4, Sweden and Finland with a score of 8, Luxembourg (7.8), Malta (7.7) and the Netherlands (7.7).
Surprisingly, given the recent economic devastation, the report found that Ireland was the third richest country in the EU, behind Luxembourg and Austria in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in purchasing power.
This study mirrors other recent reports including the UNICEF report that ranked Ireland tenth best in the world for kids and the OECD Better Life index that revealed that Ireland had higher levels of education and longer life expectancy that most OECD countries. Similarly the World Happiness Report ranked Ireland as the 18th happiest country in the world!
Commenting on the apparent contradiction in Irish happiness given the severe economic setbacks the country has endured since 2008, the co-author of the World Happiness Report, John Helliwell remarked:
This is just one more illustration that people’s happiness depends to a much smaller extent on their income than they think it does
The Report is based upon several variables:
- GDP per capita
- Life expectancy
- Perceived national corruption
- Freedom to make life choices
- Generosity of fellow citizens
- Having someone to rely on in times of trouble
These surveys are a surprise if you consider the media portrayal of Irish society. Certainly the economy has taken a hammering over the last few years but it is not as if the entire gains of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era have been wiped out. Infrastructure has improved greatly, quality of lifestyle has improved, social safety-nets are relatively well funded although the Irish health care system still leaves a lot to be desired.
If the news and television media are to be believed though, the country is awash with criminality, desperation, ‘ghost estates’, and unemployment.
Ireland does have all of these problems, just like many countries in the world, but the repeated proof of Irish happiness and good ‘quality of life’ from several international sources simply does not reflect the malaise portrayed by the Irish news media.
Simply put the Irish people are being told that things are desperate but those who have not emigrated, have a job, have a home and have access to health-care, just do not agree.
Those without a job or home certainly feel differently and while the current economic problems will certainly pass it will leave behind a society that has a much greater imbalance between the rich and those who are less well-off.
Happiness therefore is very much viewed through a personal lens.
As Oscar Wilde put it:
Ah, on what little things does happiness depend!
I have read all that the wise men have written,
and all the secrets of philosophy are mine,
yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched.