Study: Happiest countries have press freedom

University of Missouri
Freedom of the press is a reliable indicator of a country’s happiness, journalism doctoral student Edson Tandoc Jr. concludes in a new study. Tandoc and Michigan State University’s Bruno Takahashi compared 2010 Gallup data on countries’ happiness levels with Freedom House’s press freedom index and countries’ environmental and developmental rankings.The University of Missouri reports:

Tandoc found that the more press freedom a country enjoyed, the higher the levels of life satisfaction, or happiness, of its citizens tended to be.

Wonderful news! But don’t we fall into the ol’ correlation-isn’t-causation problem here?

Tandoc also found that countries with higher levels of press freedom enjoyed better environmental quality and higher levels of human development, both of which also contribute to life satisfaction. He credits this to the watchdog function of the press, which helps expose corruption of all levels in a community.

I did a little on-the-fly peer review of my own, comparing this Huffington Post slideshow about countries that indexed well for happiness (based on that 2010 Gallup data) with international sales of “Call Me Maybe.”

In three of the happiest countries — Denmark, Finland and Panama — the song is still No. 1. In all the countries in the slideshow, “Call Me Maybe” is still on the charts. That said, it’s also No. 1 in Venezuela, Mexico and Italy, none of which Reporters Without Borders rates particularly high for press freedom.

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  • Anonymous

    Wow, Mr. Beaujon, you’ve outdone yourself!

    I would think that a person interested in the welfare of journalism would applaud the findings of a scholarly study confirming the importance of press freedom, not cherry-pick quotes from a press release in a way that allows him to segue into dismissive snarkiness.

    It reminds me of what Tom Fiedler, Executive Editor of the Miami Herald said about Jonah Lehrer who resigned from the New Yorker after admitting to fabricating quotes:
    “Put bluntly, Lehrer isn’t a journalist. Yes, the publications where his work appeared employed journalists. And what he wrote most of the time looked like journalism. But he wasn’t a journalist. And despite his years of elite education, he didn’t learn the most fundamental lessons of journalism.”

  • Egg Man

    Great post, thanks. Plan to use this info to write an oped for newspapers in Taiwan re the threat of Communist China across the straits and how lack of press freedom there threatens Taiwan too, and entire civilized world. CHINA must be stopped. I am waiting for Chinese Gorbachev to arise and free his people. my opeds collected here: ”taiwanopeds” at blogspot dot com ie http taiwanopeds blogspot com

  • Derek Yang

    “Things like improving the economy alone are insufficient for increasing happiness.” Tandoc must be talking about China..