Why the French are so pessimistic ?

In his first conference in France entitled, Hope Circuit, Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, is questioned on the reasons which relegate France to the bottom of the country rankings of the happiest, behind Germany or the United Kingdom. The pessimism, the French have a historical reason or is it a posture ? In all cases, we would gain a lot to adopt the positive attitude !

Lucien Fauvernier
– Updated on February 7, 2019 at 15:51


“France is the country most pessimistic of all the rich countries. All the studies show. The French are even more pessimistic than the Palestinian people ! Why ? One of the best examples marking is the result of a survey on the future of the children. 80% of French think their children will live less materially well as them. This is the worst figure of all european countries. “At its first conference in France, Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, invited his listeners to reflect on the origins of the pessimism of French.

The origins of the pessimism of French

“This way of seeing the glass half-empty is inherited from a long history of protest, and is intimately related to the revolutionary character of France, says Martin Seligman. It has been very important in the political life and intellectual activity in france, it is what pushed the French people and its representatives to speak, to denounce, what was wrong. This is a real advantage to know that that is not going to be able to change, to transform what is wrong, what is right.

On the other hand, the downside of a culture that, somewhere, adds value to the pessimism, the objection and the complaint, it is that she will have to undergo, and this is scientifically proven, a greater tendency to depression, poorer health, less productivity at work… We can already speculate on the future of a civilization whose pessimism is so deeply ingrained.

France is much more pessimistic than it should be


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Martin Seligman in his lecture Hope Circuit in Paris.

The rate of overall satisfaction in France is surprisingly low compared to the rest of Europe. And it has not stopped declining since 2005, even as most of the economic statistics show some positive trends.

France ranks in the top 10 of financial powers the world, but is only 23rd in the ranking of the united nations of the countries most happy. This is worse than the United Kingdom, the United States… How many people in France feel they have a good life, or very good ? Do a survey and you will get a satisfaction rate well below that of the Uk, while economic data there are generally less good than in France.

From this point of view, France is clearly offside, the country is much more pessimistic than it should be.

Something strikingly occurs when one compares, for example, the statistics of the happiness between Denmark and France. A Danish unemployed is more optimistic and happy that a French employee average. The question is : is this pessimism is a posture ? Or is it really part of the French spirit ?

And if the government is interested (eventually) in happiness ?

Perhaps one of the avenues to follow to get out of this slump is political. I tend to think that people vote for or against their happiness. A study of very talking has been done during the us presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. She wondered about the link between economy and happiness, and orientation of the vote.

The researchers found that 8% of voters to Trump doing so only because of their well-being. This figure increases significantly if we are interested in concerns about the future : 30% of the voters Trump thought that their situation would deteriorate in the next 5 years.

This example clearly shows how policy and well-being of the population are related. Each leader of each country should give close attention to the happiness of its population, and perhaps even more in regards to France…

3-track policies for a happier society

To finish, here are a few tracks that, according to me, could be used by a political leader to take care of the well-being of its population.

Psychic disorders, and particularly depression, are the leading cause of pessimism on a large scale. Treat depression, and, more generally, have a large mental health plan public, is something crucial.

On the side of teaching, the use of the positive education should be quasi-systematic to give children the keys to access the well-being and happiness.

Another track could be re-estimated for persons without employment, which should not be pointed out and designated as the good-for-nothing who do not report anything. Every human being is a vector of richness, not that it is necessarily financial… “

To go further

==> The day I decided to be happy/

To be happy is decided and learned, say the proponents of positive psychology. But where to start ? What are the first steps on the path to happiness ? Our reporter tested a few of the exercises. It tells the story of this first day. And its effects.

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