Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hey, France Is Also Measuring Happiness

The river kinda looks happy already. From cooltownstudios.
Because why not, right? According to this story from the Guardian, France will probably start measuring its national happiness as well, joining the ranks of England and Bhutan. Last year, Nicolas Sarkozy commissioned a happiness report from Nobel-winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen. More recently Insee, the French national statistics office, included a new chapter in its annual Social Portrait of France. The chapter details how any future happiness studies should take place.

Interestingly, the report focuses more on unhappiness than happiness. Stéfan Lollivier, director of social studies at Insee, explains:
"You can't measure happiness, it's impossible, people don't have the same preferences for what makes them happy. But you can measure the fraction of people who are dissatisfied, who think they are unhappy, and the proportion of people who are missing out on happiness or feel excluded from it."
Current French statistics show that single parents are the most dissatisfied, and around one fifth of the French populace has gone through times of poverty--either emotional or financial.

Most researchers would disagree with Mr. Lollivier, by the way. Positive psychologists measure happiness all the time. Read just about any story on this blog for evidence! Still, this French method of surveying unhappiness should be just as valid, and could yield interesting results.


  1. Canada measures it too. Not sure if it affects public policy yet, but the measurements are fairly well-established. See

  2. The link seems to be down for me right now, but I read the cached version. Looks very interesting, and I'll make sure to keep an eye on Canada. Thanks for posting it!