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Are the French Innately Unhappy?

March 31, 2013, 9:30 PM

What's the Latest Development?

The French are the least happy people in Europe, according to a new survey of French nationals living in France and abroad. What's more, the French academic behind the new poll places the blame on French culture itself. Claudia Senik, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, reaches this conclusion by noting that French expatriates are less happy than expatriates of other nationalities, suggesting that something deeply instilled in French culture is causing unhappiness. The longer French people stay in France, she concludes, the less happy they are likely to be. 

What's the Big Idea?

An important caveat to the research is that French people report themselves to be unhappy. The study in no way confirms that the language French people use to describe themselves corresponds to their actual states of mind. "It may be the language of happiness that eludes the French rather than the underlying condition. Unhappiness, after all, often implies the desire for change—in circumstances, or even in oneself—and so dissatisfaction with life despite its material benefits suggests a kind of idealism—of intellectual vision of possibilities beyond the actual..."

Read it at the New Yorker

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