Economics and the Individual’s Well Being


Elodie Boccara, Morning Econ, Honorbound

For the first time, Norway has taken the spot for the happiest country in the world. Although it isn’t the richest country in the world with the highest GDP per capita, it has been ranked the number one happiest country in the world by CNN.1 This may come as a surprise since it is believable that the happiest country would be the richest but this is not the case. With still a high GDP per capita at around $74,000 it doesn’t compare to Qatar’s which is around $102,000.

Now a more important question is why isn’t the richest country the happiest?

In the novel Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan, he speaks about the different activities a population takes part in and how each make them feel. His findings were interesting in that he found out that the least pleasurable activity they took part in was the morning commute. Wheelan states that, “Not only is the commute unpleasant, but it often carries a high opportunity cost: less time spent socializing, exercising, or relaxing – all of which rate as highly pleasurable activities”.2 Through this quote, Wheelan is emphasizing the time lost when driving long periods of time to get around. This time lost is time that people could have used more efficiently to make them happier.

The example of driving is a prominent point made of a difference in cities where driving is necessary and cities where public transportation is popular and used by all. In Norway, 75 percent of the population owns and uses a bicycle to get around. The use of a bicycle promotes being outside, breathing fresh air and having less pollution in the city. These are all factors that play into the overall happiness of the population living in Norway.3

Katia Hetter from CNN stated that there are other factors that have been proven to be significantly higher in Norway including, “generosity, a healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices and freedom from corruption”.4

In Frey’s novel, Happiness a Revolution in Economics, he states that, “… [Happier people] can be expected to have a longer time horizon and to be willing to take more risk, which may make them more successful entrepreneurs”.5 Through this quote, his readers are able to realize that although they are more conservative with their money, they are happier and can easily become very successful entrepreneurs.

I perceive that people may believe that the difference between employment and unemployment plays a key role in the happiness of a country and that the larger unemployment factor would make a country less happy. Oddly enough though, in a Live Science article, Rachael Rettner noted that, “People who live in wealthy countries are slightly more likely to be depressed than those in low- to middle-income countries”.6 This is because people who have more money have been shown to exhibit more stress and some cases have led to unhealthy relationships causing unhappiness.

Financial worries can bring a world of problems and cause unhappiness and stress in homes where it isn’t needed. Some of the happiest people have the least amount of money but they enjoy life to the fullest, living as happily as possible.

1Katia Hetter. “Where are the world’s happiest countries?” CNN. March 21, 2017. Accessed June 19, 2017.

2Charles Wheelan. “Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science.” W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. 199.

3Randi Hjorthol, Øystein Engebretsen, Tanu Priya Uteng. “2013/14 Norwegian Travel Survey – Key results”. Institute of Transport Economics, 2014.

4Katia Hetter. “Where are the world’s happiest countries?” CNN. March 21, 2017. Accessed June 18, 2017.

5Bruno S. Frey. “Happiness A Revolution in Economics”. The MIT Press, 2008.

6Rachael Rettner. “Depression Higher in Rich Countries, Study Suggests”. Live Science. July 25, 2011. Accessed June 18, 2017.

7“Northern Lights”. Digital image. Wallpaper Wide HD. Accessed June 18, 2017.


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