Balts among world's least 'happy'

  • 2008-07-23
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon
RIGA - A recent survey has found that citizens of the Baltic states are some of the unhappiest people in the world. The study, which was conducted by the U.S.-funded World Values Survey organization, ranked Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 84th, 85th and 86th place, respectively. The survey was conducted in a total of 97 countries covering about 90 percent of the world's population. The Baltic states saw a sharp decline in their happiness rating during the 1990s, the reverberations of which can still be felt today.

"The collapse of their political, economic, and belief systems seem to have sharply reduced subjective well-being in the ex-communist societies," said study leader Ronald Ingelhart in a report released earlier this month. Contrary to the old adage about money and happiness, Ingelhart found that economic factors play a huge role in people's level of happiness. "Economic factors are the major determinant of most people's well-being. In more affluent societies, people give higher priority to free choice and selfexpression's which, accordingly, play an increasingly important role in shaping their wellbeing," the report said.

The study leader also noted a strong correlation between peace and happiness, and between democracy and happiness. Denmark topped the list of happiest countries, followed by Puerto Rico and Colombia. Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada and Australia also earned places near the top of the list. The World Values Survey has measured happiness since 1981. Its researchers have interviewed more than 350,000 people. Survey analysis was funded by the U.S.-based National Science Foundation.

While Balts may be some of the least happy people in the world, another recent survey has found that they are the most hopeful that their lives will improve over the next 20 years. On July 20, Eurobarometer, the European Commission's sociological research center, released the results of a survey that found Estonians are the most optimistic people in the EU. The survey found that an astounding 78 percent of respondents felt things would get better in the next two decades.

Lithuania and Latvia also ranked well above most European countries at 63 percent and 54 percent, respectively. The average EU rating was 38 percent. Germany, meanwhile, had the least optimistic citizens in the EU, with only 20 percent reporting that they expected their lives would improve in 20 years.