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Ottawa Citizen

Canada ranked second-happiest nation on planet

Fri Mar 21 2014 Page: C2 Section: City Byline: Meggie Sylvester Source: Ottawa Citizen

If you're happy and you know it ... eat poutine. It appears other nations might need a dose of fries, curds and gravy following the UN's International Day of Happiness. Wednesday marked the worldwide campaign that aims to reclaim happiness through progressive measures. So far, all 193 nations in the UN have adopted the high-spirited resolution. Whether it's our love for greasy cuisine or the great outdoors, Canada is said to be the second-happiest country in the world, according to a recent life satisfaction study. The winner: the equally cold Denmark. In fact, the study shows that from 2003 to 2011, nine out of 10 Canadians (or 93.2 per cent) reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their lives. But how do other nations measure on the overall happy meter? If ranked lower than the international average, perhaps a new campaign by the UN can help boost those dismal serotonin levels. A couple questions remain: what is it about Canada that makes people happy, and how can happiness be defined? Andrew Sharpe, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, says there are a number of factors that contribute to a state of euphoria.

"It's of course about the standard of living and the health of the country," Sharpe said. "Canada has one of the longest life expectancies in the world." Mental, physical and economic health also contribute to Canada's top-ranking status, and - contrary to popular belief - marital status is a large component. "People who are married tend to be happier than people who are divorced or those who never married," Sharpe said. Regional breakdown, too, is a factor when analyzing numbers in large cities and rural areas. "We did find that people tend to be less happy in large cities like Vancouver or Toronto, and that could be linked to stress because of traffic jams and commute times." Sharpe also noted that in metropolitan areas the sense of community lacks in comparison with rural or suburban communities. The concrete jungle might produce feelings of anonymity and at times make people feel insignificant, he added. Of the provinces and territories, Ontario, British Columbia and Nunuvut scored the lowest in life satisfaction; Nova Scotia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador were the joyous winners.


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In 2011, Ontario scored slightly lower than the national average, says Sharpe. Here's what three Ottawa residents said about what appears to be Canadian bliss: Michelle Dupras, graphic designer "I think (Canadians) are fairly lucky with the opportunities we have and everything seems very stable compared to other countries," she said. Durpas's only complaint? "The only thing I have to say is, I'm tired of the winter." Barret Brickell, retired Ottawa teacher "Living in Canada, for myself, I think it's an accurate portrayal in terms of the quality of life and social networks, though I think it could be stronger. I think for Ontario, there's been problems in the economic sector that has influenced the low levels here." Shelly Franois, Algonquin College business administration student. "Canada is a safe, fun country to live in; I'd rather live here than anywhere else," she said, adding that the low happiness level in Ontario may be because of the different cultures in the province. "The weather in Ontario, too, is probably the worst." 2014 Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved.


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