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Surprising Science

How You Can Become as Happy as a Dutch Teenager

In addition to legalized marijuana, the world’s largest tulip industry, and an insanely high quality of life, the Netherlands can also count some of the world’s happiest children according to a new UNICEF report.

Acording to UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre, Dutch children are have the highest well-being of 20 developed nations in terms of familial relationships, child poverty, health, and sexual behavior.

Though happy,  the ennobled position of Dutch children engenders a certain coddling in families where decisions normally ceded to adults are left to the kids. When they finally do depart the home, the transition to the real world can be an adjustment. One teenager noted the jarring transition to adulthood from the idyllic pastures of his adolescence: “I don’t have much money as a student and to go out is expensive. Beer, for example, is very expensive in the Netherlands.”

Countries that didn’t fare so well in the survey include the United States and the United Kingdom which scored a miserable 20th and 21st respectively.

The Pew Global Attitudes Survey, the granddaddy of global surveys on happiness, polled a more mature audience than the UNICEF project and got different results. In 2007, it reported American adults were at the top of the happiness pyramid, just below Canadians, with two in three reporting themselves as relatively happy with their lives. In general, as incomes decreased in countries so did happiness.

What would big thinkers include as their criteria for gauging happiness—in adults or children? Is money the best measure or are more intangible criteria the ones to weigh?


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