Gallup International organization’s representative in Armenia- the MPG company has released the results of World Happiness Barometer year-end survey this week, according to which 70 percent of the 500 respondents said they considered themselves happy, 10 percent – unhappy, 18 percent said they were neither happy nor unhappy, 2 percent refused to answer.
The survey has become an issue of heated public discussions, the main issue being the incredulity of many to how accurate and trustworthy the results are, given the fact that the inquiry was done by phone.
Artur Atanesyan, head of the chair of applied sociology at the Yerevan State University, says telephone surveys do not yield accurate results.
“The survey conductors have no way of seeing in person people’s condition and mood. I am convinced that most of the ‘I am happy’ respondents said so as a joke, even in mockery, but it wasn’t perceived as such and was misinterpreted as ‘I consider myself happy’ response,” says Atanesyan.
Aram Navasardyan, in charge of MPG consulting company founded in 2003, counters Atanesyan, saying that: “For 15-20 years now telephone surveys have been held all over the world. The choice of respondents was representative and before proceeding with questions conductors explained what it was about so that people would treat it seriously.”
Besides the controversial happiness question the questionnaire had ten others, such as whether they had positive expectations from the coming year or not, the economy would develop or not, etc.
“The question about happiness was number 3 on our list and as soon as we sensed the person wasn’t taking it seriously, we preferred not to continue,” explains Gayane Dajunts, head of MPG’s research department.
According to the survey results, people in Armenia do not connect their happiness with their economic situation. Atanesyan claims a person believes s/he is happy if s/he is socially well provided.
Gallup’s research shows that people in countries with developed economies consider themselves less happy.
“In Russia only 35 percent said they were happy. In that case why is it several times a day planes fly from Yerevan to Russia? Would our people go to a country where people are less happy than they are?” asks Atanesyan.
“In China only 25 percent said they were happy, when China has the most developed economy in the world. It means that viewing happiness in direct connection with economic growth is not right,” he says.
Psychologist Karine Nalchajyan points out that “happiness” is a complicated indicator.
“In order for a person to be happy, s/he has to live an active life, have a productive lifestyle. Armenia is a country of people with numerous cares and concerns rather than of happy people,” she says.
Navasardyan says the survey did not pursue the goal of finding out the reasons why people were happy or not.
“They are well-off, have a good family, good relatives and friends, a job they love… we didn’t even try to find out. But we cannot hide the fact that 70 percent responded they considered themselves happy,” he says.
The survey revealed that among the 58 participant countries the happiest people are in Nigeria (89 percent) and in Columbia (74 percent). The least happy ones are Italians, Serbians and Palestinians.