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Canada Mapped

Are richer Canadians happier people?

Canadians tend to be happy people, but is money the reason for our friendly ways?
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Greg J. Smith, October 23, 2013 11:46:50 AM

‘You can’t buy happiness’ is an oft-quoted cliché—but is there any truth to it? This week we’ve decided to compare a by-province-and-territory index of personal satisfaction (happiness!) and median household income across the country. As you might have guessed, we made some pretty interesting discoveries:

91.8% of Canadians described themselves as “satisfied” or “very satisfied with life in general” in a 2012 CSLS study, but the happiest ones can be found in the Eastern regions. 94.1% of Nova Scotians report they are satisfied in life—that is 2.3% above the natural average. Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick also perform well with 93.2%, 93% and 92.6% on the happiness index. While this region is ‘rich’ in attitude the same cannot be said for income. According to 2011 data, the median total household income in Canada is $72,240. Nova Scotia is $6,200 below that and Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick are all lower than that value (-$4,070, -$5,040 and -$8,310 respectively).

Related: How much money do you need to be happy?

In terms of income and attitude, Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba are in the middle of the pack. All three provinces are slightly disaffected, with satisfaction scores that are -0.8%, -0.7% and -0.2% below the national average. Income is similar, with Ontario ($1,050), BC (-$3,090) and Manitoba (-$3,530) households all hovering around the national median household income.

The centre-west has some interesting stories to tell. Saskatchewan is one of the ‘happiest’ provinces in the country at 92.7% – one per cent above the national average. The neighbouring Alberta and the Northwest Territories are also a bit above the average (0.2% and 0.4% respectively). In terms of affluence, this region is doing well. Albertans have a median household income that is $17,590 above the national average and things get better as you head north. Chalk it (at least partially) up to the Northern Allowance and Attraction Bonus—the median incomes in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon are $33,320 and $18,850 above the national median.

Related: Shopping can’t buy you happiness

According to these two datasets, the least happy and wealthy territory in the country is Nunavut, which is 1.2% below the national average in terms of self-satisfaction and $6,960 below the national median in terms of household income.

Given the varying rates of income and self-satisfaction across the country it appears the relationship between money and happiness is tenuous. If there is anything we might want to look into after studying this map, it would be to make a point of spending some time in the happy-go-lucky Maritimes.

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