Charles Kenny observes that global happiness – as measured by the most recent World Values Survey – is on the rise:
Among the global sample whose data goes back to the early 1980s, the proportion saying they are rather happy or very happy climbed from 71 percent to 84 percent. In the larger sample using data from the early 2000s, the global average reporting happiness climbed from 75 percent to 83 percent.
There are unsurprising exceptions: The percentage of Egyptians who reported themselves happy nosedived from 2001 to 2012 – from 89 percent to 26 percent – as the country descended into political chaos. But only six of the 28 countries experienced declines, and many emerging economies reported considerably increasing happiness. The proportion of Russians willing to acknowledge being rather happy or very happy climbed from 47 percent to 74 percent over the decade. Respondents in China, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Peru, and Zimbabwe all reported double-digit increases as well.
He points to possible reasons why:
There are lots of good reasons why there should be a general trend toward global happiness, especially in the developing world. Low and middle income economies as a group have experienced a climb in average incomes of 130 percent since 1981. The number of children who die before the age of five has halved worldwide since 1990. Violence appears to be declining, while democracy has been on the rise.
At the same time, the link between greater reported happiness and improvements in health, income or civil rights isn’t as strong as one might expect, even in poor countries. … Brookings Institution researcher Carol Graham surveyed Afghans about their happiness and found that – with the country near the bottom of rankings on most quality-of-life measures – Afghans in 2009 said they were happier than the average respondent in Latin America had reported in 2000.