HOPE Foundation Newsletter November 2013

Posted by on 3 November 2013

Just a few weeks ago, the results of an international ‘happiness survey’ –the United Nations Global Report on Happiness - were released.

The researchers found that when a variety of social, personal and economic factors were taken into account, New Zealanders were ranked the 13th happiest world citizens. The five happiest countries were the Scandinavian ones. Of interest is the fact that the Scandinavian countries support some of the oldest populations in the world. In Sweden for example, 18% of the population is over 65 compared with 13% in NZ Mental illness is apparently the most important source of unhappiness. By world standards, we have a relatively high rate of suicide and that drags us down the ratings.

Professor David Richmond,
Inaugural Professor of Geriatric Medicine,
The University of Auckland.
Founder and Chair of The Foundation

prof richmond

Other recent studies have looked at levels of happiness in different age groups. They fairly uniformly show that older people are happier on the whole than younger ones. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it is supported by other research that shows that older people are on the whole less angry and less anxious: they seem to have learned to deal with negative emotions better. They are more accepting of adverse influences, perhaps because they have come to terms with disease, the death of loved ones and so on over which they have no control. One can’t help but wonder if the high proportion of older people in the Scandinavian countries is a key reason why their overall happiness indices are so high. If so, what a wonderful contribution older people are making to those – and indeed all – nations!

Three of our current PhD scholars are doing research into factors that influence the well-being of older people. One is investigating the role of volunteering by older people in their life satisfaction. Another has been evaluating the role of human to human contact in various forms in preventing depression. A third project just completed has been examining the role of environmental factors in influencing the freedom of older people to enjoy their lives. We hope to have reports on these timely projects for publication in the near future. We need as a country to have as a basis for happiness something more permanent and compelling than the score in the latest All Blacks game or the possibility that the America’s Cup will return to NZ! I believe that our scholars are showing the way.

David E. Richmond

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