Chart comment archive

Created by Adam Kirrander on 12 Feb 2009

As a Swede, I must say that Brendan's explanation touches many important points, including "the law of Jante". Cultural bias must be factored in. A Swede is highly unlikely to proclaim "I'm doing great", as this would be seen as provocative and offensive to those feeling down or doing badly. This is quite the opposite of what I have encountered, for instance, in the US.

Created by Stephen on 11 Feb 2009

It seems to me that optimism is not like some of the other measures. Kahnemann argues that a substantial component of optimism is genetic - which might explain some of the country differences, and would have a limiting effect on what is possible for any given individual. This seems less true of vitality, or trust.

Created by Gordon on 11 Feb 2009

Anyone interested in an thoughtful, analytical but quite personal explanation of optimism - including quite a few international reference points - I highly recommend "The Optimist: One Man's Search for the Brighter Side of Life" published last month.

Created by Alison on 2 Feb 2009

The United Kingdom is not a country. I live in England

Created by Saamah on 27 Jan 2009

Poland has the lowest levels of well-being at work, and the longest working hours in the OECD (except Korea).

Created by TM on 27 Jan 2009

Actually, industrialisation came even later in Finland, where people seem to have the lowest self-esteem. Of Scandinavian countries, Finland is arguably the most homogeneous as well. But I cannot share the statement of the historical role of powerful state churches, Scandinavia being one of the most secular areas in the world. Having said that, I would like to emphasize the role of Lutherianism in the constitution of "Scandinavian world-view". No doubt, this religious doctrine plays a big psychological role, even though state churches are not powerful as such.

Created by Brendan Sweeney on 26 Jan 2009

I've lived in Scandinavia for much of my adult life and actually studied Swedish identity for a number of years. One of the most salient characteristics of these societies is the high level of conformity and homogeneity, which one encounters. This is the result of specific historical circumstances such as powerful state churches, strong centralised institutions and weak aristocracies. Particularly in Norway and Sweden, industrialisation came relatively late and transformed mainly peasant-based societies into modern states quite rapidly. Social democracy took on board many of the values of the earlier society and ensured that in its modern manifestation it continued to replicate a rather conformist 'folksy' view of life where everyone is treated equally. The famous 'law of Jante' explains this worldview perfectly and can be summed up with the phrase; 'don't think you're better than anyone else'. In this sort of culture people trust their neighbours because they are so similar, trust their institutions but do not have the same degree of self-esteem as in more individualistic or class-based societies such as the USA or the UK.

Created by Gemma Bruce on 24 Jan 2009

Is anyone from a Scandanavian country looking at this & if so can you offer any explanation as to why these countries seem to score low in terms of self-esteem when generally their overall wellbeing scores are higher than other countries?

Created by Juliet Michaelson on 24 Jan 2009

As we point out in our report, Finland and France have very similar levels of GDP per capita, and the same score on the Human Development Index, but their Well-being Profiles are strikingly different. Finland's particularly high scores on the emotional well-being - absence of negative feelings and satisfying life indicators help explain why it has a much higher personal well-being score than France.

Created by Juliet Michaelson on 24 Jan 2009

This chart suggests a correlation between volunteering and personal well-being: it indicates that the more people in a country who volunteer, the higher the country's average personal well-being scores. This may have something to do with a finding from our five ways to well-being research, that people are 'hard wired to enjoy helping one another'.

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