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Canadians are a happy bunch – and these are the happiest

Crowds cheer at Maple Leafs Square in Toronto during a parade celebrating Canada's Olympic athletes.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Forget about record debt levels, the harsh winters or long hospital wait-times.

Canadians are a very happy bunch, and we've grown increasingly content with our lot in life over the past decade, according to a report being released Tuesday by the Ottawa-based Centre for the Study of Living Standards.

The happiest Canadians are 12 to 19 years old and Quebeckers, while the least satisfied are seniors, according to the report, based on an analysis of Statistics Canada data from 2003 to 2011.

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"Maybe it's social media. Young people are more connected because of Facebook," CSLS executive director Andrew Sharpe said.

The report found that 92.3 per cent of Canadians aged 12 or more say they're satisfied or very satisfied with their lives. That's up from an already high average satisfaction level of 91.3 per cent recorded in 2003 – a small, but "statistically significant" increase, Mr. Sharpe said.

Those numbers put Canadians among the happiest people in the world. A February 2012 Gallup poll ranked Canadians second only to the Danes on the happy meter, up from fifth place in 2007-08. Americans ranked 17th in the same survey.

Mr. Sharpe said he's not surprised by the high Canadian numbers because they're consistent with earlier surveys. But he said the demographic breakdown remains a bit of a mystery.

"We have more facts here than explanation," he acknowledged.

"Maybe our problems are trivial compared to Africans, but I wouldn't want people to become complacent."

Among the report's other key findings:

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  • Canadian teens are the most satisfied (96.9 per cent) and seniors, the least (89.1 per cent) – a growing gap that suggests a problem for policy makers, Mr. Sharpe said.
  • The happiest Canadians are in the Yukon, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, while the least satisfied are in Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Ontario and Nunavut.
  • The largest increases in satisfaction levels between 2003 and 2011 were in Quebec and the Yukon.
  • Four of the five happiest cities are in Quebec – Quebec City, Gatineau, Trois-Rivières and Montreal.
  • Rural dwellers are generally happier than city dwellers.
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