David Gorodyansky, entrepreneur and Silicone Valley business angel:
— I once saw the documentary Happy (2012 — ed.) in which, in contrast to his colleagues who are studying depression, a psychologist decides to research happiness. He travels all round the world in order to discover where the happiest people live and why they are happy. At the end of the film, it’s revealed that the people he’s been looking for are in Denmark. This is all because they have moved out of their houses and flats into co-living spaces and are living together. They have their own personal rooms and bathrooms, but the living rooms and kitchens are shared: this is where they and their neighbours prepare food and spend time with their friends. And they choose to do this. They are happy because they never feel lonely.
I then became interested in comparing countries’ per capita GDP with the Happiness Index in various countries (as shown in the World Happiness Report). I didn’t discover a direct correlation between levels of income and happiness. Japan, for example, has the third largest economy in the world after the United States and China, but it has the seventh highest rate of suicide in world. In the United States, 40 million people are on anti-depressants. That’s 14% of the population. The happiest people, according to the Happiness Index, are those living in Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway.
I have a theory, which might sound provocative: it’s generally thought that happiness is something very personal for everyone. I only partly agree with that. I think that an important factor in happiness is friendship — a strong link and connection with other people. If you have friends, you can be happy anywhere, and vice versa: without friends you can’t find happiness anywhere. I think what we most underrate as humans today is friendship. You can go into a bookshop and say you want a book about love — and you’ll find a whole section on it. There are a lot of books on philosophy, religion, family relationships, self-development and so on, but there’s nothing on friendship.