Study shows drop in Brazilian happiness
FGV Social announced on March 20 – International Day of Happiness, established by the UN – the survey “Como vai a vida?: Entendendo a economia da felicidade” (“How Is Life Going?: Understanding the Economy of Happiness”). The unprecedented survey showed, based on Gallup World Poll and national microdata, that Brazilians are at their lowest level of happiness. On a scale of 0 to 10, Brazilians gave a rating of 6.2 to their satisfaction with life in 2018. It is the lowest point of the series, which started in 2006. The fall began in 2013, year of the Brazilian street demonstrations, when the mean grade was 7.1.
When comparing Brazil with 143 other countries, the country has had one of the three worst global declines and ranks 37th in the biennium 2017-2018. The podium is composed of the Nordic countries: Finland, Denmark and Norway; wealthy and egalitarian. The lowest ranking countries were: Tanzania, Yemen and Afghanistan; countries not only poor, but also unstable. Regarding the South American neighbors, Chile and Uruguay are ahead of Brazil, but Colombia and Argentina are behind (see the interactive chart). In 2013-2014, Brazil ranked 17th in the global rankings, ahead of all its South American neighbors. What draws most attention in these statistics is Brazil’s drop in the happiness rankings in the last four years. In the happiness loss rankings in the period, Brazil ranks near Yemen and behind only Malawi and Zimbabwe in terms of loss of current happiness.
Among Brazilians, who had the biggest drop in happiness? There is an inversion of happiness by gender: in 2018, women’s indices are above men’s (FGV Social has shown in previous surveys that women’s income has increased by 2% while that of men has increased by 5% since 2014). The relationship between income and happiness is clear in the picture and in the film: 7 for the wealthiest 20% versus 6.2 for the total. Still in terms of income, the group that lost the least was the one with the highest income, consistent with increased inequality.
According to Marcelo Neri, Director of FGV Social, despite the worse happiness grade in the historical series, Brazil’s placement is still good when compared to the income level (37th out of 143 countries): "The economy had already been recovering, albeit at a slow pace, and yet the happiness grade continues to fall. This is explained by several aspects, such as the increase in inequality and unemployment, as well as the worse grades presented in the previous FGV Social survey – Percepções da Crisis (“Crisis Perceptions”) (fear of violence, distrust of the federal government, disapproval of the country’s political leadership, etc.). Because of the low grade given by Brazilians regarding their satisfaction with life in 2018, it may be easier now to give a confidence shock and get out of this crisis. The only advantage of being in a very distrustful situation is that there is room for improvement – provided we make the necessary adjustments, of course.”
The website of the survey “How Is Life Going?: Understanding the Economy of Happiness” provides a series of materials: texts, slides, maps and interactive graphics, videos, and the happiness simulator, as well as extra materials such as books and other surveys.