The End of Happiness?


Life is so expensive it’s painful. Over the past year, inflation in Canada hit record highs, and the cost of living shot up. Food costs, especially, increased significantly, along with the cost of many consumer goods.

In December 2022, RBC published a report on housing affordability in Canada that discussed the skyrocketing cost of buying a home. RBC’s aggregate affordability measure is now the worst it has ever been at 62.7 per cent, having dropped more than 14 per cent in the last year alone. Across Canada, housing affordability has plummeted, such that only those in the highest income brackets can afford to escape the brutally competitive rental market. Prospective home buyers in many of Canada’s biggest cities must make well above six figures to qualify for the mortgages on most homes in their markets.

Meanwhile, real wage growth has stagnated for decades. Many Canadians also lost their jobs during the pandemic, and the youth unemployment rate, in particular, took a significant hit.

At the same time, social and political disasters abound. Reading the news, using social media and even engaging with friends often means confronting a seemingly unending barrage of devastating stories about systemic failures, political calamities, and climate crises.

People were not meant to live like this, and it shows: Canadians are in the midst of a mental health crisis. Amongst young people especially, mental health concerns rose sharply during the pandemic, and remain high. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, approximately 50 per cent of people will have experienced mental illness by age 40, and currently, there are too few resources to ease the stress. CTV reported that Canadians seeking mental health services must navigate lengthy wait times and high costs.

In a world like this, how is anything other than deep pessimism possible? Is anybody actually content?

But maybe it doesn’t have to be like this. Maybe things aren’t as hopeless as they seem.

Inflation is expected to drop significantly in 2023. Recent increases in employment for Canadians pushed the employment rate to pre-pandemic levels, and wages in Canada rose slowly but steadily over the past year, which, if inflation stagnates, may mean Canadians will have more purchasing power.

Although climate change is an ongoing threat, there are important positive changes being made every day to improve climate conditions. The United Nations recently published a report stating that Earth’s ozone layer, which has been damaged for decades, is on track to recover in the coming years.

This recovery is due to widespread international cooperation, which demonstrates that governments and organizations around the world can work together to mitigate climate damage.

Regardless of the external factors — though these have an undeniable impact on both our quality of life and happiness — we can choose to prioritize what makes us feel better.

Last year, I promised myself I would stop reading the news in the hour before I fell asleep. The effect in my life has been undeniably positive, and I have not felt significantly less well-informed without my late-night doom scrolling through various news apps.

In fact, reading the news in the morning — after I’ve fully woken up, had something to eat, and, ideally, completed at least one task on my unending to-do list — makes it easier for me to process the information I’m consuming and not fall prey to the news negativity bias.

I’m also more conscious about seeking out explicitly positive news to balance out the negative content that seems to dominate the headlines.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve promised myself not to give up hope. When doomerism threatens to overwhelm me, I try to remember that optimism is necessary for motivation and that the experts have not lost all hope yet.

And I get involved in the issues that are important to me, because doing my part to support others also reminds me that change is genuinely possible, and that I can help make that change happen.