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Belgians should be happier

11 April 2007

BRUSSELS – Belgians are not as happy as they should be given their level of prosperity, say Mark Elchardus and Wendy Smits of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) after a unique study into happiness among 4,500 Belgians.

Income, education and relationships play an important role in happiness, they found. Gender plays no role, though age does. Young adults are generally happy, but their level of happiness decreases until the age of 55. People are happiest after this age.

Much has to do with time. The more time pressure an individual feels, the unhappier they are. Of the category of people with little or no free time, one quarter says they are “extremely unhappy,” another 34.5 percent says they are just “unhappy.” Just under 70 percent of those under little time pressure say they are either “happy” or “extremely happy.”

The cliché that money can’t buy happiness is absolute nonsense, say Elchardus and Smits. A decent income is practically a condition for happiness. 62 percent of people wrestling with a bad financial situation say they are unhappy or extremely unhappy. More than 70 percent of people with a positive financial situation say they are happy or extremely happy.

The study also ascertained a clear link between educational level and happiness. Studying longer makes people markedly happier. After all better qualifications often lead to a higher income or a higher place on the social ladder and give one more control over one’s own life.

Relationships emerged as crucial to happiness. Having a partner is no guarantee for happiness, but it does help. 32 percent of divorced singles is “extremely unhappy” and 30 percent just “unhappy.”

Geographical lines also emerged. Flemings are happier than Brussels residents, who are in turn happier than Walloons. These differences were determined more by self-confidence than either income or health.

[Copyright Expatica News 2007]

Subject: Belgian news