Periodically through its 42-year history, the Gallup Poll has sought to shed light on one of the questions philosophers have debated over the centuries - who are the happiest people?

To gain insight into current levels of happiness, the Gallup Poll repeated a question which numerous studies, both here and abroad, have indicated to be a valid measurement. It is:

"Generally speaking, how happy would you say you are - very happy, fairly happy, or not too happy?"

The current survey found:

A greater proportion of whites (43 per cent) than nonwhites (32 per cent) describe themselves as "very happy." Southern blacks are more likely to say they are very happy than are Northern blacks.

A greater proportion of women (48 per cent) than men (35 per cent) say they are "very happy."

Education is an important factor, with 46 per cent of persons with a college background saying they are "very happy" compared to 42 per cent among those with only a high school background and 29 per cent among those whose formal education is limited to grade school.

Married people (45 per cent) are more likely to describe themselves as very happy than are single people (33 per cent).

A relationship is found between size of community and level of happiness. For example, 36 cent of inhabitants of the nation's largest cities (1 million and over) indicate they are "very happy," compared to 45 per cent among inhabitants of smaller cities or communities and rural areas.

The results:

The findings are based on a nationwide Gallup survey conducted Nov. 4-7 with 1,516 adults, 18 and older, being interviewed in person in more than 300 scientifically selected localities.