How Happiness May Depend a Lot on Individual Opportunity

In this Quartz post ‘The quest to measure happiness has missed a key metric—and it’s more important than money‘ the author analyzes in detail how happiness is measured and the problems with this measurement.

Satisfaction is grossly correlated with income, in particular when it comes to satisfying our basic needs (see enclosed graph from the Economist). There is still a very wide spread for the same wealth. In richer countries, however, other parameters appear to become important.

The post stresses the importance of Opportunity as a visibly good discriminator for social happiness between countries. Some very rich countries only give their citizens very limited opportunities, and this would be a cause for lower happiness and revolt.

It still puts some limits to this single parameter, recognizing that “A person’s happiness, and her perception of success or failure, ultimately depends on what measures the individual values over the course of her life—whether that’s providing for a family, fighting climate change, or writing poetry. Wealth is nothing without the opportunity provided by good health to live free of pain and worry. And opportunity itself is important, but is it—or freedom, or love—paramount?

I do believe that individual freedom and opportunity is an essential parameter for happiness – but it must be supported by a social structure that accepts failure and supports individuals through major problems.