In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

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jserraglio
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In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by jserraglio » Thu May 17, 2018 12:17 pm

Washington Post — Heaven is wide open spaces — at least, it is for most people, according to a massive new data set measuring happiness in Canada.
Their chief finding is a striking association between population density — the concentration of people in a given area — and happiness. When the researchers ranked all 1,215 communities by average happiness, they found that average population density in the 20 percent most miserable communities was more than eight times greater than in the happiest 20 percent of communities.
A team of happiness researchers at the Vancouver School of Economics and McGill University recently published a working paper on the geography of well-being in Canada. They compiled 400,000 responses to a pair of national Canadian surveys, allowing them to parse out distinctions in well-being at the level of more than 1,200 communities representing the country’s entire geography.
They were able to cross-reference the well-being responses with other survey data, as well as figures from the Canadian census, to see what sorts of characteristics were associated with happiness at the community level: Are happier communities richer, for instance? Are the people there more educated? Do they spend more time in church?
Their chief finding is a striking association between population density — the concentration of people in a given area — and happiness. When the researchers ranked all 1,215 communities by average happiness, they found that average population density in the 20 percent most miserable communities was more than eight times greater than in the happiest 20 percent of communities.
“Life is significantly less happy in urban areas,” the paper concluded.
You can see that effect in the map below, which shows the region around the city of Toronto. Densely populated areas like Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener stand out as islands of relative unhappiness in a sea of satisfaction in the hinterlands.
The happiness measure is derived from a survey question that asks responses to rate “how satisfied” they are with their lives, on a scale from 1 to 10. Across Canada, community-level average responses to this question range from 7.04 to 8.94. This may not seem like a wide range of difference, but Canadians rarely offer self-assessments outside this range; in a typical year just five percent of Canadians rate their satisfaction below a 5, for instance.
It’s useful to think of this narrow spectrum of responses as representing the entire continuum of Canadian happiness. Hence, the study’s authors note that even small differences in the absolute score are highly statistically significant.
So what makes the happiest communities different from all the rest? Aside from fewer people, the authors found that the happiest communities had shorter commute times and less expensive housing, and that a smaller share of the population was foreign-born. They also found that people in the happiest communities are less transient than in the least happy communities, that they are more likely to attend church and that they are significantly more likely to feel a “sense of belonging” in their communities.
It may seem contradictory that greater happiness is correlated with both lower population density (implying fewer interpersonal interactions) and a greater sense of “belonging” in one’s community (implying stronger social connections). But a significant body of research shows that having a strong social network is key to well-being. Some studies indicate that small towns and rural areas are more conducive than cities to forming strong social bonds, which would explain some of the greater sense of belonging observed in the happiest Canadian communities.
Perhaps even more surprising are the factors that don’t appear to play a major role in community-level differences in happiness: average income levels and rates of unemployment and education. People may move to cities for good-paying jobs, but the Canadian study strongly suggests it’s not making them any happier.
These findings comport with similar studies done in the United States, which have revealed a “rural-urban happiness gradient:” The farther away from cities people live, the happier they tend to be.
One important caveat in the Canadian study is that the authors aren’t making any strong statements about causality: There’s a clear association between low population density and reported happiness, but that doesn’t mean that low population density causes happiness. A miserable city dweller who moves to the country might simply become a miserable country dweller, in other words.
However, it’s clear that there’s something about small towns and rural life that’s associated with greater levels of self-reported happiness among people who live in those places. The strength of the Canadian study is that it parses out these distinctions at an uncommonly fine level of geographic detail.
Christopher Ingraham writes about all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.
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jbuck919
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Re: In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by jbuck919 » Fri May 18, 2018 6:21 pm

The same would likely be found in the US, and for the same human nature reasons that write themselves differently in the two countries. In the US, either being one of the (let's face it, largely black or Hispanic) urban poor or having to live in the same town with them is a crucial factor, while having one's basic needs met, often with government programs of which the beneficiaries politically disapprove when it's someone else who is getting them, enables a rural idyll, albeit in the US a pretty shabby one. My mother could remember when there was no rural electrification or free postal delivery.

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lennygoran
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Re: In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by lennygoran » Fri May 18, 2018 8:09 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 6:21 pm
The same would likely be found in the US,
I'm out in the country-spent most of the day doing chores outside in the garden-I'm not sure I'm happier. Regards, Len :lol:

jserraglio
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Re: In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by jserraglio » Fri May 18, 2018 8:25 pm

duplicate removed
Last edited by jserraglio on Sat May 19, 2018 4:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

jserraglio
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Re: In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by jserraglio » Fri May 18, 2018 8:26 pm

lennygoran wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 8:09 pm
I'm out in the country-spent most of the day doing chores outside in the garden-I'm not sure I'm happier.
WAPO wrote: A miserable city dweller who moves to the country might simply become a miserable country dweller, in other words.

lennygoran
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Re: In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by lennygoran » Fri May 18, 2018 8:38 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 8:25 pm
A miserable city dweller who moves to the country might simply become a miserable country dweller, in other words.
[/quote]

This doesn't quite explain it for me--I've always enjoyed the city and still still do-otoh I'm totally committed to our garden-still I'm getting old and decrepit. Regards, Len :(

PS-right now our azaleas and rhodos are very happy.

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John F
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Re: In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by John F » Sat May 19, 2018 4:29 am

"Happiness researchers." The topic of happiness, however measured, begs so many questions that it can hardly be researched, not until there's general agreement on what happiness is. Just asking hundreds of thousands of people where they live and how satisfied they are with their lives doesn't cut it scientifically. It's basically a popularity poll.

Speaking from personal experience, I grew up in the rural county seat of Lancaster, PA, but when I could, I chose a career (publishing) that would enable me to live in New York City, and I never want to leave. Dr. Johnson had it right about city life: whoever tires of it is tired of life, for there is in the city all that life can afford. (If you can afford it.) Believe me, despite a good local college with its faculty and activities (Franklin & Marshall), there was and probably still is not enough going on to keep the mind alive, let alone happy. Now I'm not saying that only the mind-dead can be happy in the country...

It may be different in Canada, where wide open spaces are mainly what they have.
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by jserraglio » Sat May 19, 2018 4:58 am

I am very happy living in a city but also need something of an escape from it regularly: a 5-minute walk from my front door facing a busy interstate 8 minutes from downtown takes me into a magnificent 20,000-acre nature preserve. I am even happier there, but part of that happiness involves my knowing that I will eventually return to my front door facing a busy interstate 8 minutes from downtown.

lennygoran
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Re: In Canada, the country mouse is happier than the city mouse

Post by lennygoran » Sat May 19, 2018 6:39 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 4:58 am
I am very happy living in a city but also need something of an escape from it regularly: a 5-minute walk from my front door facing a busy interstate 8 minutes from downtown takes me into a magnificent 20,000-acre nature preserve. I am even happier there, but part of that happiness involves my knowing that I will eventually return to my front door facing a busy interstate 8 minutes from downtown.
Central Park serves NYC well as a place to go for a little bit of escape from its hectic fanatic pace-we love returning to our own garden after a 4 or 5 day stay in NYC-we love the mix. Regards, Len

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