In this day and age, it's good to remind people that we live in pretty good times. Life expectancy is now up to 71 years. Women are unlikely to die in childbirth. Formerly common occurences–like losing one's teeth or having a child die from an infectious disease–are rare. Poverty is down, crime is down, literacy is up, we're healthier than ever before and we're living those last years healthier than at any time in history. Fraser Nelson's uplifting end of the year piece in the Telegraph is a must read if you want to feel good about the way we live now.
Want more good news? According to a survey of 64,000 people in 65 countries, we're not just healthier and better off, we're all a lot happier than we used to be. The BBC reports the details:
The market research and polling organisation WIN/Gallup found that 70% of respondents were content with their life – a 10% increase from last year.
Fiji was the happiest nation, with 93% of residents expressing contentment, and Iraq the least happy with 31%.
The survey found that Africa was the happiest region, with 83% of people saying they were happy or very happy.
Meanwhile, Western Europe appeared to be the least happy, with 11% of people classifying themselves as either unhappy or very unhappy.
Globally, 53% of those asked thought 2015 would be better than 2014.
Three-quarters of respondents in Africa were confident of an improvement, compared with 26% of those in Western Europe.
Nigeria was the most positive country, and Lebanon the most pessimistic.
This is interesting for several reasons. First, consider the high levels of happiness in Africa. Amazing, right? One might assume that because of the instability of many African nations, the ongoing problems with Ebola and other deadly diseases, war, famine and unstable totalitarian dictators dotting the landscape, that Africa would be made up of miserable people. But despite their many challenges, people living on the continent of Africa don't wallow in self loathing and pity. Clearly they find meaning and happiness in their lives and have hope for a better future. It's also interesting that relatively wealthy nations in Western Europe contain a bunch of sad sacks. Perhaps some of this is caused by the alarmists who dominate Western news and social media platforms and who perpetuate the lie that life is getting worse. Who wouldn't be depressed hearing that over and over again.
Consider this poll released a few years ago by the Independent Women's Forum which showed 68 percent of women believe the United States is becoming a more dangerous place despite record low levels of crime in America. These same women also said that they don’t trust government to react to these percieved problems responsibly, or the media to report on it accurately. Those polled (87 percent) also expressed frustration with finding legitimate sources for health and wellness information, saying that it's cheap and easy to find somebody to argue a given position. This doesn't engender much confidence in the sources women use for inforamtion in these issues. This explains why 83 percent of the respondents said it was difficult to discerning between legitimate concerns that might affect their health and well-being, and scary headlines designed to attract attention.
Women are bombarded every single day with messages that they're harming themselves and their children with heretofore normal behaviors (like things mom used to do but that now are frowned upon). Perhaps this is one of the reasons Western nations are far less happy than nations with poorer populations.