The Happiest Man in America

Statistically speaking, anyways. Every year, Gallup polled randomly selected American adults about their lives, including how happy they are:

The New York Times asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America, based on the characteristics that most closely correlated with happiness in 2010. Men, for example, tend to be happier than women, older people are happier than middle-aged people, and so on.

Gallup’s answer: he’s a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year.

Does that person actually exist? The New York Times went a-sleuthin':

A few phone calls later and ... Meet Alvin Wong. He is a 5-foot-10, 69-year-old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, who’s married with children and lives in Honolulu. He runs his own health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year.


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I'd like to point out, this is a common problem of approaching human studies with the analysis of composites. There are people way happier and more content than this guy.

Psychologists do something similar when they look at what "normal" people are like. They overlook the gross cultural and innate neuroses that plague all of humanity. While the Tibetan monk who overcomes all desires, prejudices and finds himself supremely content to have nothing, barely registers on these "composites."

The truth may be that "normals" are high-strung, bat-crap crazy, egotists who lust after material gain and call it "happy" when they get a little ego-boost. My family member was exstatic when he got his "50 inches of happy" in the form of a plasma screen, but that tapered off and the new thing now is a brand new Mazda 3. That monk is still sitting in his dusty cave, happier than a pig in crap, while my family member cycles through possessions that bring him temporary bouts of elation (not contentment/happy).
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That's my dad! We manage to have a very Hawaiian pork/spam free diet out here, complete with Kalua turkey for Thanksgiving and chicken lu'au! And don't worry about him, he's still smiling :o)
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