Happiest Nations Also Have Freedom of the Press

-By Warner Todd Huston

A University of Missouri study has found that nations with the happiest citizens share something in common. They also have an established tradition of a free press.

Missouri University Journalism student Edson Tandoc, Jr. and co-author, Bruno Takahashi from Michigan State University, correlated data from 161 countries and applied that to the 2010 Gallup Poll measuring happiness around the world, Freedom House’s press freedom index, and other data and found that, “the more press freedom a country enjoyed, the higher the levels of life satisfaction, or happiness, of its citizens tended to be.”

“The road to happiness isn’t direct; it is a complex path or web that includes many different influences and interrelationships,” Tandoc said. “Things like improving the economy alone are insufficient for increasing happiness. Protecting press freedom is also an important component of the happiness web.”

The authors also found that countries with a higher level of press freedom had better quality of life quotients in many other areas, as well.

“A country with a free press is expected to be more open about what is wrong in their societies and with their environments,” Tandoc said. “A free press is likely to report about poor human conditions and environmental degradation, bringing problems to the attention of decision-makers. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that press freedom is positively related to both environmental quality and human development.”

Of course, some have noted that correlation isn’t causation.

It must be understood that freedom of the press is but a part of the package of modern democracy and it is that whole package which leads to happiness. Freedom of the press isn’t a single causal factor but is only a part of the whole. Certainly the parts are all indispensable but none of them alone are guarantees of happiness.

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