August 6, 2012

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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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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