Happiness is: living in Switzerland

The Swiss measure happiness by health, wealth, companionship and children

The Swiss are irretrievably happy, according to a new survey, which had difficulty finding anyone with anything serious to complain about.

This content was published on July 23, 2002 - 13:53

Young or old, rich or poor, male or female, the Swiss are unanimous about one thing: happiness is a country called Switzerland. That's the finding of a nationwide survey of 853 people, aged from 16 to 76, carried out last April.

The results - presented at Switzerland's national exhibition, Expo.02 - confirm what most Swiss already knew: theirs is the best country in the world to live in.

The survey certainly identified some complaints: young people would be happier - or say they would be - if something new or unexpected were to happen occasionally.

But this attitude steadily wanes with age and by their late 30s, the former excitement-seeking Swiss have settled down to become contented couch potatoes happy with what they have.

Even the future holds no fear for most Swiss, with the notable exception of the Italian-speakers and low-income earners, who tend to view what lies ahead with some trepidation, although they seem to be happy about everything else.

For Konrad Mrusek, Switzerland correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, the Swiss attitude is something of a "miracle".

He points out that, on the face of it, a visitor might not guess the Swiss are overwhelmingly happy. "They don't show it on the street," he says, "but behind closed doors at home."

Good health above all

So what is it that makes the Swiss so happy? Good health is most important -and it's a privilege that the Swiss pay dearly for, with health insurance premiums among the highest in the world.

Mutual trust, financial security, nature, leisure and the family are also a priority, and the happiest of all Swiss are well-educated married couples with a good income.

Unsurprisingly, different age groups have very different ideas about what's important and what brings happiness.

Those aged 25 to 47 are concerned chiefly with careers, the ability to attract partners and, later on, children. Political involvement is low on the list until the Swiss reach retirement, when they start becoming far more interested in participating in the democratic process.

One finding was that, despite the huge changes wrought by the modern world, the Swiss are still concerned about exactly the same things as their parents were, and their grandparents: health, wealth, companionship and children.

Is there anything, then, that would make the Swiss even happier? Apart from peace on earth, many people say they would like a change of job or profession and, for those without, a partner and children.

But they are not losing any sleep over it.


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