Gorse and heather are blooming along East Cliffs, luminous against the sea. Beyond, the Isle of Wight shines at the mouth of the Solent. It’s a warm, windy evening near Bournemouth, perfect for a walk, a coffee, and a bit of scribbling.
The UN ranking of the world’s happiest countries is out – the Dutch have fallen to seventh from fourth, overtaken by Norway, Canada and Finland. The US is 15th; the UK is 21st. There are lots of interesting sub-statistics: In general, younger people are angrier, middle-aged worry more, and older folks are sadder (all to a slightly greater extent in women than in men). Stress and income drop with age; generosity and pain increase.
The report concludes that there is a growing body of evidence on the importance of building social capital to build national happiness (well-being and economic success). They speculate on the policy implications: how virtues might be nurtured among citizens to achieve better outcomes for society as a whole. Their (somewhat scary) list is:
- Life- and social- skills training in schools
- Universal access to education
- Specialized training in compassion
- Professional codes of ethics that are socially constructive
- Effective state regulation of dangerous anti-social behaviors
- Focused efforts to reducer public-sector corruption
- Public policies to narrow income and wealth inequalities
- Adoption of strong social safety nets and universal social benefits, without means-testing
- Recovering ethical voices who lead moral discourse in society
- Strengthen deliberative democracy
- Accurate reporting of pro-social behaviors and correcting falsely pessimistic views
and the value of sunset walks along windy ridges should not be underestimated…