Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

The 5 happiest countries

Following my previous blog of today, I needed to relax my mind and opened a magazine. While glancing through it I noticed an interesting topic and something odd. According to ABN AMRO’s 2015 edition of its magazine Relevant, the 5 happiest countries are: Canada, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland. I am not disputing the ranking or the selection of countries. The real odd thing is their geographical location: above the 49th parallel (north) and just below the arctic circle and also below the 67th parallel (north). I don’t believe in coincidences. So what’s the reason?

A Google search on the words ‘happiness’ and ‘latitude’ revealed a 2003 Working Paper from the Hamburg University on “Climate and Happiness” by Katrin Rehdanz and David Maddison. This paper concludes: “We find that higher mean temperatures in the coldest month increase happiness, whereas higher mean temperatures in the hottest month decrease happiness”.

Basically, the 49th parallel (north) is the border between Canada and USA.

The first picture (left) could suggest that having 4 seasons rather than 2 may be very relevant.

Nevertheless, all mid latitudes on the south are excluded and several European countries above the 49th parallel are also not included: e.g., Austria, (northern) France, (most of) Germany, BeNeLux and Poland.

source; see page 8 of PDF

The second picture (left) explains why there are no “happy” countries included in the southern latitudes as basically there are none. Argentina, Australia and Chile all disqualify given their latitudes.

Interestingly, all countries – apart from Switzerland – are located near seas or oceans.

To a very large extent, this 2003 study confirms the ABN AMRO list of happiest countries. 

This 2003 study makes an interesting comment in its conclusion: “In general, our results support findings that high latitude countries benefit from limited climate changes whereas low latitude countries would suffer losses”. 

Actually, Belgium and The Netherlands rank pretty high in this 2003 paper. 

Belgium (1982) by Het Goede Doel
band, lyrics, video, Wiki-band, Wiki-song

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.

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