The Happiest Man in America


Wong (R): “My life philosophy is, if you can’t laugh at yourself, life is going to be pretty terrible for you.”

He exists. His name is Alvin Wong.

Every year, Gallup polls Americans across the nation to gauge “emotional status, work satisfaction, eating habits, illnesses, stress levels” and other indicators of general well-being. Their findings are plugged into a statistical composite called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and then sorted by geographic area.

Their findings? The happiest man in the U.S. is (statistically) 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.

However, unlike last week’s “most typical person in the world,” who lived only in hypothesis, The New York Times actually went out and found the flesh-and-blood man who represents the happiest demographic. After making a few phone calls (and nabbing a referral from a local Hawaiian synagogue), they found him:

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 … 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?”

Nope. We extend our formal congratulations to you, Alvin. Rock on.

What’s interesting though is that Alvin’s good fortune isn’t really all that surprising. In a study recently published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers found that young people tend to underestimate how happy they’ll be in old age. For young men particularly, that doubt is coupled with habitual binge drinking.

According to the researchers:

We find that young people mispredict happiness levels in old age, believing—wrongly—that happiness declines with age. We explore the possible implications of of this under-estimation of happiness in old age for the risky health behaviors of young people.

In fact, the same poll that uncovered Alvin found that the older you get, the happier you tend to be. (Men were also found to be happier than women, on average.) So with all due respect to Kanye, “live fast and die young” may not ultimately be the way to go. Take it from Alvin.

About Lu Fong

Lu Fong was a staff writer and blog editor for the Good Men Project in its formative years. As the requisite woman on staff, her hobbies included cleaning, cooking, knitting, fainting, and childbearing. Follow her on Twitter @lufong.


  1. Catullus says:

    I suspect that in this day and age, the old are more likely to see just how right Epicurus was:
    there is no god that’s going to torment or reward you; there is no afterlife to worry about; what you really need is easier to get than you realize; what you really suffer from is easier to bear than you think.

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