Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Countries with more butter have happier citizens

Butter supply and life satisfaction are linked — but by causation or correlation?

Image: Carey Tilden/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0
  • Haiti and other countries with low butter supply report low life satisfaction.
  • The reverse is true for countries such as Germany, which score high in both categories.
  • As the graph below shows, a curious pattern emerges across the globe. But is it causation or correlation?

"Give me a good sharp knife and a good sharp cheese, and I'm a happy man". Perhaps not a quote you'd expect from the creative mind behind Game of Thrones, but maybe George R.R. Martin is onto something.

Life's better with butter

Image source: Our World in Data

According to this infographic, there is a clear, statistical link between self-reported levels of life satisfaction in countries worldwide (vertical axis) and the per-capita supply of dairy products — in this case, butter (horizontal axis).

Of course, butter is not cheese: for one thing, it contains only trace elements of casein, a chemical compound associated with dairy, but much more prevalent in cheese, which causes a feeling of euphoria.

Yet as the map shows, an abundance of butter does make people happy. Or could it be a case of correlation instead of causation? In that case, something else influences both life satisfaction and the availability of butter to go up and down together. Perhaps… the associated availability of cheese?

No butter, no joy

Image source: Our World in Data

So, what does the map actually show? On the horizontal axis, the butter supply per capita:

  • Extremely low (<0.1 kg/year) in countries like Haiti, Cameroon, Malawi and Madagascar.
  • Middling (0.1-1 kg/year) in Nicaragua, Jordan and Romania, for example.
  • Abundant (>1 kg/year) in places such as Canada, Australia and Germany.

For those countries (and those plotted near them on this graph), low, middling or abundant per-capita butter supply corresponds with low, middling and high levels of life satisfaction:

  • Less than 5 out of 10 for Haiti, Cameroon and Malawi, and even less than 4 for Madagascar.
  • Between 5 and 6 for Jordan, Romania, and Nicaragua.
  • Between 7 and 8 for Canada and Australia, just below 7 for Germany.

Middle of the road, in both categories

Image source: Our World in Data

Of course, there are outliers: Salvadorans make do with less than 100 grams of butter per year, yet report life satisfaction between 6 and 7 out of 10. Despite getting their hands on less than 1 kg of butter per year, Mexicans score near the top of the league when it comes to happiness.

On the other hand, Egyptians get more than 1 kg of butter per year yet linger on the wrong side of 4/10 on the "Cantril Ladder," which measures life satisfaction.

Happiness is a warm knife. Through butter. Lots of butter

Image source: Our World in Data

Nevertheless: "In my time studying global food and nutrition I've never seen the issue (illustrated) with such clarity," says Hannah Ritchie, an environmental scientist and data visualization specialist at Oxford University, who published this graph on her Twitter.

Ritchie is the co-author of Our World in Data, which uses infographics to illuminate a broad range of subjects, including population, health, energy, the environment and, yes, food.

Strange Maps #962

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How to manage self-inflicted stress

Stress and anxiety therapist Dr. Amelia Aldao suggests waiting 60 seconds before reacting to a stressor, giving your rational mind time to catch up to your emotions.

Studies show that positive emotions (happiness, comfort, pleasure, etc) allow us to consider a larger set of options in order to make faster, smarter decisions.

Image by pimchawee on Shutterstock
Personal Growth
  • Stress is a complex defense mechanism that we experience in relation to either internal or external threats.
  • Self-inflicted stress is stress we inflict upon ourselves with our emotional and behavioral responses to certain situations. An example of self-inflicted stress would be your car breaking down on the morning of an important meeting because your "check engine" let had been on, but you ignored it.
  • There are a few ways for you to cope with self-inflicted internal and external stressors, put forth by researchers and therapists.
Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less

How Hemingway felt about fatherhood

Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.

Ernest Hemingway Holding His Son 1927 (Wikimedia Commons)
Culture & Religion

Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?

Keep reading Show less
Videos

The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast