The Gallup Poll Profiles (and Finds) the Happiest Man in America

They found him, in Hawaii.

For the last three years, Gallup has called 1,000 randomly selected American adults each day and asked them about their emotional status, work satisfaction, eating habits, illnesses, stress levels and other indicators of their quality of life.

It’s part of an effort to measure the components of “the good life.” The responses are plugged into a formula, called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and then sorted by geographic area and other demographic criteria. The accompanying maps show where well-being is highest and lowest around the country.

The New York Times asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America, based on the characteristics that most closely correlated with happiness in 2010. Men, for example, tend to be happier than women, older people are happier than middle-aged people, and so on.

Gallup’s answer: he’s a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year. A few phone calls later and …

Meet Alvin Wong. He is a 5-foot-10, 69-year-old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, who’s married with children and lives in Honolulu. He runs his own health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year.

Reached by phone at his home on Friday (and referred to The Times by a local synagogue), Mr. Wong said that he was indeed a very happy person. He said that perhaps he manages to be the happiest man in America because “my life philosophy is, if you can’t laugh at yourself, life is going to be pretty terrible for you.”

He continued: “This is a practical joke, right?”

I could say something snarky about living where meshulachim can’t find you, and where you don’t have to put up with the foolishness of too many other observant Jews. But that wouldn’t add to people’s happiness, would it?

Kudos to two usually very happy math professors for spotting this: Dr Percy Deift (Courant Inst.) and Dr. Barry Simon (Caltech).

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5 Responses

  1. Raymond says:

    At the risk of saying something that some may take offense to (although I have nobody particularly in mind when I say what I am about to say), I have to agree that happiness at least for me is increased when not living right in the belly of the beast of any Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. I never want to live far from them either, so I have made sure up to now to live close enough to them to still feel Jewish, yet far enough away that I can live in relative freedom.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Specifically, freedom from what, Raymond?

  3. Raymond says:

    Freedom from being judged when I do not completely conform to what I see as a very narrow vision of life.

  4. Miriam says:

    Well isn’t that a variation of Rav Adlerstein’s own comment:

    where you don’t have to put up with the foolishness of too many other observant Jews

    It’s a very frustrating phenomenon, that the more we gather our resources together, the more we lose that all-embracing “out of town” cohesiveness.

  5. tzippi says:

    Eh, you don’t have to live THAT far out of town to find your own comfort level.
    But back to the story – great Shabbos table discussion! 2 Wongs (Mr. and Mrs.) make a right, and I wish them much nachas.

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