Screenshot from Gross National Happiness USA group website.
Taking a page from the British, a group this summer surveyed residents of all 50 states to see how they felt about their own lives. Ohio scored in the middle of the pack according to three indices and did much better than most, according to a fourth.
The group Gross National Happiness USA commissioned the survey, which got 5,000 responses from residents of all 50 states last summer.
“What’s cool is we asked people to rate their own lives,” said Rob Moore, president of Gross National Happiness USA and principal of the Columbus firm Scioto Analysis. “The goal is to push public policy past dollars and cents and get to how people are feeling about their own lives.”
The survey asked the same four questions the UK’s Office for National Statistics has been asking since 2011 as part of its Measurements of National Well-being:
- Life satisfaction — Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
- Worthwhile — Overall, to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
- Happiness — Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
- Anxiety — On a scale where zero is “not at all anxious” and 10 is “completely anxious”, overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?
In terms of life satisfaction, Delaware, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida scored best, while Rhode Island, Washington, Oklahoma and Oregon scored worst. Ohio came in at 33rd.
The responses for happiness and satisfaction were similar at the extremes and Ohio scored 12th and 21st, respectively.
Interestingly, when it came to anxiety, respondents of Alabama, Texas Oklahoma and Vermont said they were the most anxious and those in North Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey and Hawaii said they were the least anxious. Ohio came in 43rd in that category — in which a low score was good.
The survey is similar to the World Happiness Report, which is done using data from the Gallup World Poll.
The most recent version of that report says that people in Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland consider themselves to have the best lives, while people in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Lebanon and Afghanistan believed they had the worst. The United States came in 16th.
For Moore, such ratings can be an important tool in formulating public policy.
“Our dream is to hear quarterly world happiness numbers next to GDP,” he said.
But how objective are people when asked how good or bad their lives are?
On a global level, it’s easy to see how residents of wealthy, peaceful countries might see their lives better than do residents of unstable, poverty-stricken ones. But couldn’t it also be true that retirees who live in places like Florida find their lives to be happy and satisfying just because they choose to live there?
Moore acknowledged that simply where one is from might influence how that person responds when asked to evaluate his or her existence.
“There are some cultural differences that affect how people rate their own lives,” he said. I’m
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