A recent global happiness survey conducted by the World Happiness Report has shown that Canadians now rank 15 on a country by country scale. This is a 5 place drop from Canada’s previous rank of 10.
On an absolute and relative level, the conclusion is simple: Canadians are not happy.
You might argue that Canadians are happier than people in Moldova or India, and you’re probably right. The thing is, people don’t measure satisfaction based on how bad things could be. They compare their standing against others around them. And against their own experiences.
The whole world has gone through lockdowns, Covid deaths and massive lifestyle changes. So if everything were equal, you’d expect the rankings to remain constant. Clearly, Canada is going through something other countries aren’t. The right will blame the left. Left the right. There’s so much subjectivity in these kinds of surveys that who’s to really know.
One thing is clear though. The countries with the happiest citizens are socialist paradises: Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and Netherlands. These are countries that take care of their people. Indeed, 9 of the top 10 countries were European.
The anomaly was New Zealand – probably the most European country outside of the EU. Canada used to fit that description.
So what went wrong? The most objective answer I can provide is economic. A growing proportion of Canadians can’t afford one of the most basic of Maslow’s needs: Shelter.
Rents and home prices across Canadian regions with the most jobs are higher than almost anywhere else in the world, in relation to median incomes. Moreover, the unaffordability gap is widening. Every day, housing prices are rising faster than most individuals’ ability to save for a down payment.
It used to be that a nuclear family could live quite well off a single blue collar wage. Today, many Canadians are abandoning the idea of ever having kids – they have nowhere to put them.
I’m not saying these Canadians are living on the street. They’re living with parents and sharing apartments. But they’re doing so way longer than previous generations. With the light at the end of the tunnel shrinking, this dependency on the kindness of others to meet a basic physiological requirement is stressful, and unusual for most Canadians throughout modern history.
When basic physiological needs – like shelter – are not met, people are unable to pursue safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. They are unable to develop as humans, therefore limiting their capacity for happiness.