Among the many policies that will continue under the newly re-elected Obama administration is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015. However, with over 67,000 veterans estimated to be homeless in 2011, the goal remains elusive. Veterans have long been overrepresented among the homeless. Nationwide they are about 10 percent of the general population, but comprise almost 14 percent of the homeless adult population, according to a VA report. Five states—California, New York, Florida, Texas and Georgia—account for more than half the total veteran homeless in the country.
By Alberto Brea and Kevin R. Convey
What is happiness?
And, more importantly, what are the elements of happiness – the things that make us happy?
These are hardly idle questions. Since the beginning of civilization, they have occupied philosophers, formed the basis of religions and bedeviled leaders of every stripe. More recently, they’ve animated the hit parade, crowded best-seller lists and kept the waiting rooms of mental health professionals overflowing.
Indeed the most common answer to one of life’s most elemental questions – “Why are we here?” – is “to be happy.” Still, that answer begs the question: What goes into making us happy?
As we enter what for some is the happiest time of the year – featuring, in rapid succession, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day – and what for others is the gloomiest period of the year, the subject of happiness and its components takes on renewed interest.
Every year, the Gallup Organization conducts a detailed poll on the subject of happiness in the United States, measuring dozens of variables and producing a portrait of happiness by state. We wanted to know how the age-old metrics of health, wealth, and wisdom –-Ben Franklin’s “healthy, wealthy and wise” nostrum correlated with happiness by state. And though Franklin didn’t mention it, we were also curious about the role religion plays in happiness.
So, clearly, Ben Franklin was right about some of the components of happiness: Our measures of health, wealth and wisdom correlated strongly with states’ happiness as ranked by Gallup.
And it’s fortuitous that a tacked-on question we almost didn’t ask because Franklin didn’t ask it – the impact of religion on happiness – tied our findings up nicely.
Our discovery that states with the highest numbers of religious residents tended to score low on the happiness index seemed counter-intuitive until we examined it in the context of our earlier findings. Presto: The most religious states were also largely states that ranked low on measures of health, wealth and wisdom.
The exact relationship of religion to this package of negative variables remains as unclear as the chicken-and-egg conundrum. Do people living in states afflicted by low health, employment and education indicators seek out religion for solace or do more deeply religious tend to be less healthy, less employed and less educated?
That’s one that even Franklin might have a tough time with.