What is happiness?



What is happiness?
Happiness research
10 February 2015
Charlene van Herwaarden
Elyse van Rijsbergen
Work on subjective well being has brought together many researchers from
the fields of economics, sociology, psychology, political science, brain
sciences, and so on. Encouraging dialogue between different kinds of
researchers is difficult but essential. Happiness research has played a big part
in this quest for happiness. For the past years there has been a rising
worldwide demand that policy should be more closely aligned with what
really matters to people as they themselves characterize their lives. More and
more world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South
Korean President Park Geun-hye and British Prime Minister David Cameron,
are talking about the importance of well being as a guide for their nations
and the world.
We chose the topic happiness, because when you think about happiness, the
term seems very easy, but there is more to it than meets the eye. In our daily
life we do not realise how important happiness is for our well-being on
personal level as well as for our nations. With this research we wanted to find
out what influence happiness has on our society and policymaking.
We would like to thank some people who have helped us with our research.
Meneer van Horssen, teacher economy
Erik Vos, from Worldschool
The people who answered our questionnaire
What is happiness? What defines happiness?
Which factors affect happiness?
How can we effectively measure happiness?
What are the happiest countries in the world? And what makes
Bhutan one of the happiest places in the world?
How can measurements of happiness contribute to policies
aimed at the development and progress of society?
How will happiness be measured in the future and which factors
Will play an important role?
What is the impact of the use of happiness meters on the society?
Happiness survey
Survey results
Logbook Elyse van Rijsbergen
Logbook Charlene van Herwaarden
All sources
The main goal of our research is to find out what happiness meters are and
what they do. Our mainquestion is: “What is the impact of the use of
happiness meters on the society?” To be able to answer our mainquestion we
had to take a look at different aspects of happiness. We answered six
subquestions to be able to draw a conclusion. We did research on what
happiness defines, which factors affect happiness, how we are able to
measure happiness effectively, what the happiest countries are in the world,
how happiness measurements can contribute to policies aimed at the
development and progress of society, and how happiness will be measured
in the future.
To answer these subquestions we used a lot of sources. We have visited the
ministry of infrastructure and environment in The Hague. There we have talked
with a policy officer about happiness meters. He gave us some useful tips. We
also bought some books, for example “The World Book of Happiness” and
“Happiness & Hardship”. We have used several sites for our research, but the
books were very useful as well. Besides that we have also conducted a survey
Our collaboration went very well. We agreed on the division of labour very
easily. Some elements of our research were quite difficult, but we have
managed to complete it because of our great teamwork!
We are very satisfied about the final result of our research on happiness. We
have approached our topic happiness from several positions. In this way we
got to know the advantages and disadvantages of using happiness in
research and policymaking.
It was a very interesting topic to do research on. We have learned so much
about happiness and the influence of happiness on our society.
“There is no one word in our language for happiness”.1
What is happiness? What defines happiness?
Happiness is the phenomenon where everyone on this earth just cannot get
enough of. But what defines happiness and what kind of types of happiness
do we have?
The first and maybe hardest question to answer is the question what is
happiness in general. This main question is important for the entire PWS. It is
quite difficult to answer this question because happiness can be interpreted
in many ways. Happiness for us might mean a whole different thing than
happiness to you.
Let’s start off with the definition of the word happiness. Even though there are
some small differences in meaning it all comes down to the same thing.
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well being.2
So we could say that happiness is all in our head. Happiness has everything to
do with the emotions. Positive or pleasant emotions ranging from
contentment to intense joy can be called happiness.
Researchers divide happiness into two components. The first is, as mentioned
above, the expression of positive emotions. The other component is having
the sense of satisfaction. It is one thing to experience a positive emotion.
Though it is another to feel satisfied. We as humans are not often satisfied,
more about that in the upcoming pages.
Ask anyone about happiness and everyone will answer with a different
response. There are differences between sexes, but also between countries
and even continents. In enquiries about the happiest countries it are often the
same countries that come out on top. Scandinavian countries consider
themselves happy. Americans do not consider themselves very happy. The
way they look at happiness is very simple. Money, family and fun seem to
make them happy, whereas in Russia the ultimate goals of happiness are
totally different. They say they would only be fully satisfied when there is a
mutual understanding between people, when there is a world of beauty and
peace. Goals, which are not as easy to fulfill. This might be the reason why
Russians are ranked lower in the contest for ultimate happiness.
As you might notice happiness is a very broad topic. Everyone has a different
angle on the topic. It is looked at from biological, psychological, religious and
Quote from Noraini M. Noor from The World Book of Happiness
philosophical approaches. All together the concept of real happiness
remains a little vague.
It is important to know what determines happiness. This is also a quite
surprising outcome for some.3
50% of our happiness comes from our genes.
40% of our happiness comes from our intentional activity.
10% of out happiness comes from external factors.
What happens to us when we feel happy?
Feeling happy is something that everyone wishes. Though it is not as easy as it
might seem to fake that feeling. In fact it is impossible. Putting up a smile is not
enough to make you happy. The question is what does?
Happiness starts in our brains. To be exact the left pre-frontal cortex is the
location that is involved in our happiness.4 These cells determine our state of
mind. Also the sub-cortex at the bottom of the brain is involved in this (we
know this because of research with MRI and EEG). There are billions of cells in
our brains and each and every one of them is connected. Vital chemical
carry messages from one brain cell to the other. Doing this they ‘talk’ to one
another. Those messages determine whether you feel happy or sad.
Happy messengers have transport upbeat messengers.5 This is also known as
Biogenic Amine/Endorphin system. There are four happy chemicals that could
make us feel happy.
All of those chemicals make us feel good once released. The optimal situation
would be if all of those chemicals would be released all the time. Though this
is unfortunately not the case. All of them have a special task to do and once
they completed that task they turn off. Dopamine for instance makes people
more talkative and excitable.
So we reach happiness when one or more of those chemicals are released in
our brains. The brains are the first step towards feeling happy. When they are
5 http://altered-states.net/barry/newsletter185/
released the next thing will happen. That part of the brain that is involved will
‘light up’. Not really of course, but there will be a sudden increase of activity.
When this happens more blood or activity in this part of the brains will occur.
Feeling happy is often a result of something. When something good happens
to you, you will start to feel happy. This often makes your heart beat faster.
And so your blood flows faster. This results in more energy and in a more
active mood. Furthermore your skin temperature will rise and so will your skin
get damper. All of those signals make those chemicals in your brain active.
The smile
There are many results of happiness. One is more direct and visible than the
other. Smiling is the one thing that represents happiness. A smile from ear to
ear can make not only you, but also others feel happy. Though smiling is also
a physical feeling of happiness that we ourselves can fake. While we cannot
fake our heartbeat or skin temperature we can put on a smile even if we do
not mean it.
Smiling the one thing that everyone in this world seems to understand. Even
though you do not know each other, you do not speak each others
language or come from complete different backgrounds, you do understand
each other in the language of the smiles.
Though most of the smiles are not genuine. We often laugh to be polite or
make someone feel better. There is just one smile that is really genuine: the
Duchenne smile.
The Duchenne smile is the name of the smile that shows true happiness. 6 The
name has been given by Paul Ekman. He was a professor of psychology and
he named it after Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne. He did research on the
muscle around the eye in the year 1862. Duchenne was a French physiologist.
The Duchenne smile goes as follows:
 The corners of the mouth go up.
 The eyes of the person narrow, they start forming little crowfeet in
the corners of the eyes.
 The upper half of the cheeks rise, often showing the teeth.
If you see someone smile like that you know the smile is genuine. Seeing that
smile or smiling it yourself is much more than a contraction of muscles in your
face.7 That is only the beginning of feeling good. Little signs go to your brain.
7 https://blog.bufferapp.com/the-science-of-smiling-a-guide-to-humans-most-powerfulgesture
In the brains some of the chemicals are released. And they tell you to feel
Smiling is good for all sorts of reasons. Studies have shown that smiling reduces
stress.8 Stress is a factor that has influence on our happiness. This is due to the
fact that if there is too much stress put on the brain, the ‘delivery’ of the
happy chemicals falls behind. They do not reach other brain cells; slowly you
begin to feel unhappy, or even depressed.
Living without stress is good for our personal life but also for work. So it does
not only have biological advantages. Also economical and social
advantages. Smiling breeds’ trust, makes you happier overall and can even
make you live longer!
Ernest L. Abel and Michael L. Kruger from Wayne state university have
dedicated an inspiring research to it. 9 Their research question was: ‘does
smile intensity have a statistically significant effect on a person’s longevity?’
In their case study they looked at 230 pictures of basketball players. They
were looked at and assessed by many professionals. They were divided into
three groups: no smile, partial smile, and Duchenne smile. After that they
compared it to the life data of those professional basketball players. The
outcome was very interesting. The life span of the non-smilers was 72.9 years.
Two years less than those who smiled partially on the photos. The big winners
of this study are those who laughed on the photos. They lived to an average
of 79.9 years.
They did the same study, but instead of looking at the smiles they looked at
the attractiveness of those players. No difference in lifespan was found this
With this case study Abel and Kruger showed that people who smile tend to
live longer. Appearance does not matter when talking about life expectancy.
Long-term and short-term happiness
If we want to get a closer look at what happiness really means we can divide
happiness in two parts. We can look at the short-term or the long-term
Short-term happiness
Firstly we will look at the short-term happiness. Imagine walking on the street
and bumping up against a good friend. After greeting this good friend you
will probably ask him ‘How are you?’. He automatically responds that he is
fine and asks the question back, on which you will probably reply that
everything is okay, you’re happy.
This is a typical case of short-term happiness. In a conversation like this you will
probably respond without thinking. Short- term happiness can be based on all
kinds of things. You will become happy of certain activities, a good grade,
food or sport. This is really personal.
There are critics of short-term happiness. Luminita Saviuc is one of them. She
wrote an article for the website purposefairy.com about the risks of short-term
happiness. In the Article ‘Say no to short-term happiness’ she wrote:
‘They love to only do what is fun and easy, tension relieving rather than gold
achieving. If we keep on living like this, if we will be doing this, we will never
find our true happiness.’10
This sentence indicates that if we focus on the things that make us happy for
a few seconds we forget the big picture. Living in a world, which is full of
distractions can be difficult after all.
Furthermore she believes that our lives are journeys to ultimate happiness.
During this journey everyone has about the same state of mind. One night
you might be very cheerful but eventually you will get back to the same level
of contentment. You will never be fully satisfied, because you did not reach
your goal yet.
So if we should believe misses Saviuc, short-term happiness is overrated. These
moments of pleasure only stand in the way of real happiness. While we do
agree that long-term happiness is more important than short-term happiness,
we do think that the little things are important as well. On this journey that we
make in life it would be boring if we always had the same state of mind. It
would not only be boring, but also dangerous. Without excitement we will get
into a rut. A rut is bad for the mood of people. And in serious cases this rut
might make you forget about your initial path to long-term happiness.
Long-term happiness
Secondly we have long- term happiness. To inquire if someone is happy
overall you will need to change the question and the setting. You do not ask
for the long-term happiness in small talk because that is quite a personal
question. Research has shown that only ten percent of happiness comes from
circumstances.11 So where does the other ninety percent come from?
To answer that question we need to know what long-term happiness actually
is. We would consider happiness as a very broad and big thing in this context.
Long-term happiness is not something that can be achieved in one day, one
week or even one month. It takes much more to become really ‘happy’.
There is no exact formula for making decisions that lead to long-term
happiness. Though while comparing people who claim they are happy with
their lives they share a few principles.
The first thing that is important in becoming happy is to engage in
activities you love. This seems easier than it is. Through all the stress of
work or school or social obligations we often forget to do something
that we really do for ourselves. ‘Do what you love’ 12 is an often used
advice for anyone who needs to choose a career or a study. Being
engaged in something you are passionate about will make you
The second important factor in happiness is having friendships and
connections. Humans are from ancient times on herd animals. We
love to be surrounded. Without any form of contact we might as well
change in some kind of animal. Having meaningful contact will
make you happier. Having a conversation makes you feel
connected and supported. Fixing problems or making decisions is
easier with some help from outside. Furthermore connections have
proven to improve your coping skills and your level of stress. Good
friends take care of each other. We learn each other to live good
and healthy. We make the day worthwhile and motivate us for the
next day. In this way other people do have a big influence on your
The third advice is to be flexible. Every one of us will one day face
disappointment or challenges in our lives. The strongest and thus the
happiest of us will not let the disappointment get them down. We
should see disappointments as challenges. The challenge is to come
out stronger than the way you came in. Sometimes you need to
admit that you cannot control the situation. Let everything rain over
you and deal with it. Anything is possible as long as you believe in it
yourself. Flexibility of the mind is important to forgive and forget. Only
then you can move on.
Like mentioned in the point above forgiveness is also very important
in the path to happiness. Once you keep on holding on to anger or
remorse you spoil the precious days of your life. Freeing yourself of
this burden makes you feel ten pounds lighter. It also makes people
understand you better. They now know why you feel a certain way
and will give you the space to process your feelings.
To show a little gratitude in life is not a bad thing. When people help
you or when something has succeeded you are allowed to count
your blessings. In fact counting your blessings makes people happier.
To feel grateful for everything that you do have instead of the things
that you do not have makes your mood get better by the hour.
These points are only a few guidelines to overall happiness. If it works that
depends on the person. Long-term happiness is the thing most people strive
for. You might not be as successful in every aspect but there are always things
that make you happy. The key factor is to take time to reflect. Stop the world
for one second and look around you. What do you have? Amazing friends? A
good job or a fantastic hobby? There is always something to live for,
something to strive for.
Long-term happiness seems to be the one thing that we need in life. There
are many ways to achieve that feeling and those ways differ per person.
Has happiness changed through the centuries?
The search for happiness is very old. The way people regarded happiness
back then is different from now. In ancient times happiness was something
beyond human agency. In the ancient Greece happiness was controlled by
the Gods and just by luck. Even big philosophers like Socrates had an opinion
about happiness. In a time were happiness was supposed to be out of human
control, Socrates took a different stand. In the Symposium Socrates declared
that education is the key to happiness.13 Children should be taught how to
become happy.
After Socrates, Aristotle was the next big philosopher who had an outstanding
opinion about happiness. He lived from 384 BC until 322 BC. Aristotle shared
the Socratic view on many points. Though he believed that next to education
other external factors played a role in achieving happiness.
Though until the 18th century most of the people did not look at happiness like
we do to it now. 14 In Europe and America we know that people were
encouraged to live a sober life. All for the sake of living a ‘good’ life. People
from the church told their followers to live with a slightly saddened outlook on
life. If they did so they would be spoilt in after life. God would reward those
who had followed his instructions. Lots of inhabitants trusted the church and
lived to believe that happiness was unnecessary and maybe even sinful.
Ever since the 18th century we got a more positive outlook on life. The few
historians who worked on happiness generally agreed that there was a
sudden change. Joseph Addison, an English politician, writer and poet
explained that there were three essential sources for happiness in life. Three
grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to
love, and something to hope for.15
This is a quite a different outlook on happiness than people were used to.
Happiness suddenly became a public desire. Why this change suddenly
occurred is not known. The thing we do know is that it is not due to
antireligious reasons (it was not until the 19th century that the influence of the
church took off). The enlightment did change the mindset of the religious.
Happiness was not any longer a sin, it became a way of commemorating life
and paying tribute to God.
The 18th century became the century in which normal people were more
eager to show their happiness. Why this was the moment people started
laughing more in public is not really known. There are some historicists that
believe that because of the improved dentistry more people were willing to
show others their teeth by lifting up their lips.
Happiness became an everyday facet of life. Without happiness your life was
not complete. So everywhere people tried to find things that make us happy.
It was also in this period of time when work was supposed to bring you joy.
Whereas work used to be an obligation, the office became a place where
you liked to go to. Somewhere you can be yourself, find friends and socialize.
At home the atmosphere became very important. Also in the 19th century
wives had to stay at home and take care of all the chores in the house. One
of her main chores was to keep her husband satisfied. She had to bring him
joy and happiness, needed to give him children and needed to raise those
children to be good, smart and polite. A big pressure was put on those wives.
After the 1920’s happiness was not just an unspoken desire anymore. Through
literature and other sources like music more and more attention was put onto
being happy. Also on the commercial field happiness was used more often.
Where childhood was once a period all based on strict rules, it now loosened
up. In the past the feelings of children did not really matter. Whether the child
was happy or not it didn’t matter. Only by being strict the children would
become successful in life. From the 20th century on experts changed their
minds: ‘happiness is as essential as food, if a child is to develop into normal
manhood or womanhood.’16 A total different outlook on the life of children.
Children are born happy and the parents should let the child be. The child
should be able to be as happy as possible in order to have the best future.
Another important result of happiness was the growing consumerism.17 More
often people associated buying goods with happiness. This had a very
positive effect on the economy.
https://books.google.nl/books?id=17 http://americamagazine.org/issue/687/article/happiness-examined
On the one hand has happiness shown us a very bright side of itself. Though if
there is one thing that we learned after all those years and from all those
experts in the field of happiness is that happiness has a limit. If we expect too
much of happiness it will only dissatisfy us in the end.
Are we ever really happy?
So what defines happiness? In general we as humans are ‘happy’ when basic
survival needs are fulfilled. Take for example food. Food is one of the most
important things for us in this earth. We eat when we are hungry. Once we fill
our stomachs with a snack, we feel complete, we feel happy. This sense of
happiness remains for a while and is saved in our minds. The remarkable thing
about our brains is that they are able to lay connections we do not even
have to think about. Any time we don’t feel good we have the urge to eat.
Just to get back to that good and satisfied feeling.
Furthermore there are many other basic needs we have to fulfil. Sexual urge,
being confirmed and having more power are also general things, which
make us happier in life. Though, there is a catch. It is in the nature of human
that we do not remain ‘happy’ for long. Every time we have something in life,
it could be bigger and better. So the right question to ask is: are we really
The short and easy answer to this question is: no. Something inside us keeps
telling us to search on. Achieving one big thing does not mean you have
succeeded in life. There is a name for this phenomenon: ‘the grass is greener’
syndrome. 18 This syndrome also is common in relationships. We are never
really 100% happy or satisfied. Also when we talk about our job or house.
Anytime you have settled somewhere you start wondering. Is this really the
best I can do? Am I missing out on things somewhere else? Will I be happier if I
move to another bigger city? All those questions wander around in our heads.
This syndrome often causes the opposite of what we want to accomplish.
Since the grass is always greener on the other side we could say that you will
never be happy. Focusing on things we do not have is a recipe for disaster.
Year after year more and more people are diagnosed with a depression.19
This depression can last up to years. Depression makes you feel lifeless, empty
and apathetic. An inquiry from the GGZ showed that up to 20% of all the
people in the Netherlands will be depressed once in their lives. 20 This has big
consequences. In the Netherlands alone, the costs of depression are 168.000
Disability Adjusted Life Years. This means that depression is more expensive
than diabetes, long cancer or dementia for our government. 21 The costs of
the treatments are 966 million euro’s per year. 22
20 http://www.ggznederland.nl/uploads/publication/Factsheet%20depressie.pdf
21 RIVM. Nationaal Kompas Volksgezondheid (2013);
22 Slobbe, Kosten van ziekten in Nederland 2007 (2011);
Figure 1.1: Depression.
This Dutch graph of depression shows us how much people will ever get into a
depression. This depression can be divided over once in their lives, or it
occurred in the last twelve months.
The second graph shows the division of the people who get into such a
depression. The further you go to the right the further you go in life. The first
three bars tell us about the lowest education and so it moves up towards HBO
or university.
Even though something in us keeps telling us we could be happier, there must
be a way to feel happy overall. The clue is to keep reminding yourself of what
you do have. Focus on the here and now. If you keep on living in the past you
will never become happy. When you only look at the future, you forget about
the little things that happen now. Every day is special and unique. Mindfulness
will help you to keep your mind quiet. It stops us from agonizing over what
might have been or what could be. It brings us back to the present. Overall
we as humans are not often really happy. We could be though. We should do
our best and focus on the here and now. That is the key to a life full of
Do we take happiness serious?
Happiness turns out to be quite important for us. Though do we take it serious
enough? Most of us would agree that happiness is very much wanted.
Though when we start using happiness more, it turns out that it is not the most
respected topic. Quitting your job, doing reckless things or staying at home for
the sake of happiness is not often seen as a good excuse.
Though happiness is a good reason to do things! A happy human being is
capable of much more. Happiness leads to self-actualization.23 Happiness is
our highest goal in life. Furthermore is happiness an effective way of
accomplishing many other goals in life.24
“More and more income does not lead to more and more happiness”.25
Which factors affect happiness?
To achieve happiness we need to know which factors have an influence on
happiness. Those factors determine whether you are likely to be happy or not.
In the first subquestion we already discussed the basic factors for happiness. In
the upcoming subquestions these factors will play a key role. The factors will
be a recurring topic in the sub questions about how to measure happiness
and how it will be measured in the future.
The three main factors to gain happiness are:
 Genes
 Intentional activity
 External factors
Those three factors determine whether you are happy or not. Though they are
not binding. At all times you can become or be happy, even though all three
of those factors are against. It is the way of dealing with them, that
determines if you really miss your shot at happiness.
Genes affect happiness
From the moment you come into this world a few things in your live are
determined. You will have blue eyes and brown hair; you have asthma or
another illness. Both your parents gave you some of their characteristics.
External characteristics, but also internal characteristics. All of those
characteristics we call genes. Your genes determine for a great part who you
are and who you will be in the future. The one thing they also influence is how
big your chance on happiness is. Because that is one of the packages they
give you from the moment you are conceived.
British researchers claim that they have found the reason why certain people
are happier than others.26 They compared the genes of over 100 different
countries. What they saw gave them the reason to assume that genes are
responsible for happiness.
How do those genes determine whether you are happy or not? That is thanks
to the serotonin levels that you received from your parents.27 Serotonin is a
chemical that maintains your mood balance. It is directly linked to depression.
Quote from Stavros Drakopoulos from The Book of Happiness.
27 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2812573/Americans-Brits-French-BORN-miserableLength-gene-determines-happy-Danes-rank-top.html
In general each and everyone on this earth should have this gene. So we
would all be happy. Though this is obviously not the case, because otherwise
one country would not be happier than another in the happiness chards. The
key to this lies in our genes. There is much less chance on a mutation of the
gene that is responsible for happiness. This gene is closely linked to the
regulation of the serotonin levels. If those levels are suppressed it is more likely
that people get into a depression.28
Scientists at the university of Warwick discovered that the happy gene differs
in length.29 Shorter versions of this gene indicate that there is a higher risk on a
lower level of serotonin in the brain. People with longer ‘happy’ genes are
more likely to have a higher level of serotonin. This will most presumably mean
that you are happier and more positive.
The research is not done yet. There are conflicting ideas about the ‘happy
gene’. After all the research done by the university of Warwick the journal
progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry put a spanner
in the works. They did some research and found out that while both man and
woman have the ‘happy gene’. The woman showed much more activity
under the influence of a long or short version gene. Though the man did not
show any real changes under that same influence. Those researchers suspect
that testosterone might be the reason why men are immune to the ‘happy
gene’.30 This is just an assumption, because not everyone agrees on this part.
So up to 50% of our happiness lays in the hands of our parents.
Happiness affects genes
Besides the fact that genes determine your happiness, it can also be the
other way around. Happiness can also influence or affect your genes.
Scientists say that your genes can be influenced, while handling with very
good or very bad emotions for a long time.
Steven Cole from UCLA did research together with a special team about the
human genome. 31 He was determined to find out about the affects of
happiness on the human genes. In order to have a good research, he divided
happiness into two parts.
Eudaimonic happiness, having a deep sense of purpose and meaning
in life.
30 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/happiness-gene-women-maoastudy_n_1844504.html
31 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264105.php
Hedonic happiness, the type of happiness that comes from absolute
80 healthy adults were asked to take part in this research. They were asked
several questions about their lives. All those questions were directed to find
out whether those people were happy or not. And if they are happy, what
kind of happiness they pursue. After categorizing all of those people, a
little blood was drew and mapped.
Researchers used a gene-expression profile named CTRA (conserved
transcriptional response to adversity) to map their findings. The CTRA is a
shift associated with an increase of inflammation and a decrease in
antiviral activities with the genes.
These were some of the findings of Steven Cole and his team about the
difference between eudaimonic well-being and hedonic well-being:
Figure 1.1: Well-being. 32
If we look at figure 1.1 we will see the division between eudaimonic wellbeing and hedonic well-being. The line in the middle shows us the perfect
division between those two. The little black dots represent the 80 adults.
Based on several questions their position was calculated. If your answers
suggested that you have a high sense of eudaimonic well-being and a lower
sense of hedonic well-being you will be on the left side of the figure. Though
the research of Steven Cole pointed out that more people are under the line
of the perfect equivalent level. This means that the 80 adults will have a
stronger sense of hedonic well-being than eudaimonic well-being. The people
in the left bottom of the figure are the least happy. The ones in the right upper
corner are the happiest.
If we look at figure 1.B we will see the relationship between eudaimonic
happiness and total happiness. The vertical axis is the axis of eudaimonic
happiness. The number ranges from tree to minus tree. The positive number
show that the person (the dot) has more eudaimonic happiness than hedonic
happiness. All the negative number shows more Hedonic than eudaimonic
happiness. The majority of the dots (persons) are situated below zero. Which
means that more people that have more hedonic happiness are came out of
the research. Every person of the 80 that participated did not score lower
than a 1 out of five on total happiness.
The research showed that the people with high levels of eudaimonic
happiness are more likely to be healthier and have healthier genes.33 They
have low levels of inflammatory gene expression and exhibited a strong
expression of antiviral and antibody genes. This means that those people
have enough antiviral activities in the genes. Those people will get ill less often
and will not have as many health problems.
The people who were showing more signs of hedonic happiness showed
higher levels of inflammation. There was a decrease in the amount of antiviral
expression. They will get more ill and their overall health is often less.
All together we could say that happiness and genes go hand in hand. We
should not underestimate the power of your own body.
Intentional activity
Where we cannot change our genes we can actually do something to
become happier. 40% of our chances on happiness lie within our decisions.
Our behavior can determine a great deal of our happiness.34
If you look at the most happy people around us, they are often doing all kinds
of things. Their diaries are filled with appointments and meetings. Work,
school, friends, or family all have their place in a very busy schedule.
Someone who did research about the active part of the search for happiness
is Sonja Lyubomirsky. She teaches at the university of California, Riverside and
writes a lot about her findings. She has set up her own theory about
‘We can not alter our genetic set points, and changes in life circumstances
don't have a lasting impact on our happiness, but we can increase and
sustain our happiness through intentional activities.’35
She did so much research that she was able to put down a list of activities
with which you can recognize a ‘happy person’. Because believe it or not,
happy persons do things differently than unhappy persons:
Expressing gratitude is the first sign of happiness. Showing gratefulness
and counting your blessings once in a while will make you happier. This
is because, instead of focusing on everything you do not have, you are
focusing on the things you do have. Also when you are more open
about how grateful you are people are more likely to do things for you,
just because they know that it makes you happy. Relationship will
flourish and so your life will be better.
Cultivating optimism is the second sign. Having a positive outlook on life
will help you to get through the hardest times. Being positive will help
you to keep on working on your goals. Also optimists are more likely to
have a good image of themselves. Mistakes and negative events
happen and there is nothing that can change that. External factors are
out there and they will not always work with you. Though being
optimistic will help you in your life.
Avoiding over thinking and social comparison is the third sign of a
happy person. Someone who is unhappy will constantly overthink
everything that they do. This often leads to not doing something new at
all. Furthermore unhappy people will find themselves comparing to
others. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Practicing acts of kindness is number four. This does not only show that
you are nice to others it also shows that you are confident enough to
walk up to someone and say what you think. Giving someone a
compliment or helping someone makes the others day. They will feel
good and seeing the smile on their faces is very rewarding. One day
they will want to make you feel the same way, so they will make it up to
Nurturing social relationships is the fifth sign of happiness. Keeping
contact with people you do not see regularly is difficult. In your busy life,
you need to make space for old contacts. Though those people will
make you happy. They know you and care about you, just like they do
for you. Other people can surprise you and take you off guard. The
humankind needs social contact. Without it we would all go crazy.
Developing strategies for coping is the sixth point. Do not let people
walk over you. If you make up your mind and know your own thoughts,
you can handle well in any situation.
Learn to forgive is number seven. Sudhir M. Shah once said:
’Forgiveness is not a sense of false humility that makes us better than
somebody else. It is an attitude that sets us free, so that we are not
continually re-victimized by our wounds.’36
If you are able to forgive the other, it is often a sign of a strong mind.
Increasing flow experiences is the eight sign of a happy person. This
sign is all about doing things. Work with your strengths passions and
talents. While at the same time working on your weaknesses. You will
find that your flow experiences will become better.
“Everyone has unique gifts and talents. What you love is what you’re
gifted at. To be completely happy, to live a completely fulfilled life, you
have to do what you love.” ~ Barbara Sher.37
Savor life’s joy is number nine. Even though every one of us always
tends to appreciate the big events in life, we should stop for a minute
and look around. During the quest for the big events we forget how
beautiful the little things in life are. We take the nature and people
around us for granted. Though if you are able to see them and
appreciate them, you will be a whole lot happier.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they
were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault.38
Committing to your goals the tenth sign of a happy person. A happy
person has goals in his or her life. They set all kinds of goals. Little ones,
bigger ones, goals, which are easy to achieve or goals that you need
38 http://rbrault.blogspot.nl/p/note-november-23-2013-today-to-my.html
to work for a very long time. This gives you a sense of direction in your
life. this is important for a well balanced and happy life.
Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future,
and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of this future into reality.39
Practice spirituality is sign number eleven. This is a step that is not
absolutely necessary to feel totally happy. Though the ones who do
practice spirituality are often very relaxed. They are stable and strong
minded people. It gives them strength to know that they don’t face
problems alone.
Taking care of your body is the last sign of a happy person. Your body is
the material thing that represents who you are. It is important to feel
good in your body. So exercise a lot and eat healthy. Feeling confident
about your body is very important for a happy life.
These are the twelve signs of a happy person according to Sonja Lyubomirsky.
Do you want to be happy start with sign ten! Start setting goals for yourself. Set
the goal to become happier. It is worth it.
The good thing about intentional happiness is the open access to it. Each
and every one of us can decide to start working on our happiness. So with the
right mindset we can become happy. 40
Learning from the children
Learning how to get the right mindset is easier than you might think. We have
all got it in us. We only have to dig deep. Think about your years as a child.
How happy were we? Some of us might have been luckier than others
though everyone has been put on this world as a happy human being. If we
speak for ourselves we could say we have had a pretty amazing youth. We
had enough food; we had a house and a loving family. The littlest presents
made us smile. But why did that characteristic fade away over time? Why did
we all of the sudden forget to smile over the little things. Children are happy
because they are open to it.
One of the things children are amazing in, is in trusting their gut feeling. Your
gut feeling is something our original surviving instinct according to Casteix.41
We did not receive it for no reason. If every one of us would use that feeling
more often we would not be picking our brains out about every decision we
need to make. We would just do it.
41 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-mundt/a-backtoschool-rule-forkids_b_5853030.html
Furthermore children live in the present. They do not spend time yearning
about the past. Neither do they worry about the future. Their full attention
goes to the moment they live in. If they feel good right here at this moment
they feel good about anything, also about their future. Partly because they
cannot look very far ahead yet compared to adults. This is helpful, because
they view their future without gloom.42
Another thing children are professionals in are being excited. When was the
last time you saw an adult getting all enthusiastic? Probably quite some time
ago. And was it ever as happy as when you tell your little cousin that she is
getting a present? Again the chances are small. Though being excited would
be so good for our happiness. Expressing your feeling does not make you
weak. It makes you accessible. There is no harm in showing how you feel.
People will probably only start liking you more, since you show how you feel.
They now know how to make you happy and so they will probably do things
more often for you. Besides getting excited is good for you, the YerkesDodson Law points that out: ‘a moderate amount of anxiety can actually be
motivating and energizing.’ 43 Always living without showing any emotion is
tiring. It makes your temper go down and spontaneity will decrease. If you let
yourself be as excited as a child, every day will be a pleasure.
Last life lesson of our children is: be open! Children say what they think. They
do not spend hours a day thinking about saying something, they just say it
when it comes up in their minds. This spears them from a lot of stress. If adults
would do the same they would be a lot happier.
External effects
The remaining ten percent that affect our happiness are external. We do not
receive them through our genes. Neither does it have anything to do with the
way we act. Though we can influence those factors. That is the nice thing
about it.
Thinking about happiness the big majority thinks about health, brains or the
amount of money you have on your bank account. And even though it is
only ten percent, we should not forget about it. Every day we face external
effects. There are too many effects to discuss, because anything outside
ourselves is external. All of those things together make up the ten percent.
''The best things in life are free, But you can give them to the birds and bees, I
want money, That is what I want, That is what I want.''44
44 http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1776
This song written in 1959 by Barrett Strong and later on made famous by the
Beatles expresses the main question of this paragraph. Can money buy you
happiness? According to the song it does, love cannot make you happy. It is
money that everyone on this earth needs and wants. Though is this really
Lots and lots of research has been done about this. Many psychologists had
their own opinions about money and the effect of it on people. It was the
university of southern California that came up with the Easterlin’s paradox in
1974. Economics professor Richard Easterlinn wanted to conduct research to
that burning question. And as the name of the research reveals he came
upon a paradox. He found out that it does not matter in which country he did
the research all the outcomes showed matching results. The richer people
were always more happy that the poor people. He did however not find any
evidence that there were differences between the rich people’s happiness in
the different countries.
For his time Easterlinn was very far. The first part of his research was entirely
true. Though in 2008 Stevenson and Wolfers published a paper, which stated
that the populations of the rich countries as a whole were happier than the
populations of poor counties.45
In this paper the next figure was incorporated:
Figure 1.2: Happiness vs. income.46
This figure shows us the outcome of Wolfs research. The first figure called
‘Happiness vs. income worldwide’ combined different countries. He used
India, China, Egypt, Germany and Brazil. All of those countries have a
different culture and a different situation. In each of those countries they
compared the average annual income to the average satisfaction in that
country. If we look at the figure we can imagine a line through all the points.
This line rises slowly but steadily. India for example has the lowest income and
is also the least happy. Whereas the U.S. has the highest average income as
well as the highest average grade of satisfaction. The conclusion of this figure:
‘people in rich countries are happier than people who live in a poor country’.
The second figure is called ‘happiness vs. income in the U.S.’ in this graph
Wolfs decided to look in to the happiest country according to the first figure
he published. Also in this graph he compared happiness to income. The
higher the income the higher the average satisfaction was in that country.
This is because the line rises over the rise of income.
Though if the annual income of people is below $75.000 money does make a
difference, according to Princeton University. 47 As long as people do not
have to worry about their basic needs, money matters less. Under the
benchmark people struggle a lot. The only thing they really need is to survive.
And lets face it; we need money to buy shelter, food and clothes. Money to
them is very necessary. So extra money would make them extremely happy.
Even if it is a 1000 dollars, as long as people are above that benchmark
money is less important.
Money is important. The richer people or nations are the happier they are.
Money does not change everything. If you have enough money to fulfill your
basic needs your money means less to you than when you have to struggle to
survive every day.
Searching for the relationship between money and happiness from the last
paragraph we came across an inspiring quote from Henry Miller:
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is
someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”48
48 http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2014/02/12/love-quotes/
This is a very true quote. The message is beautiful and is soothed for this
section. Relationships are one of the most important guideline to happiness.
People who have one or more close friendships appear to be happier.49
The humankind is very much focused on the people around us. We could not
live alone for very long without going crazy. Also the people that surround us
can make or break our happiness.
Lots of research has been done about the effect of a person his social
connections. What turned out was that people with many friendships are less
likely to experience sadness and other problems 50 . The amount and the
quality of connections are important for everyone.
In this modern world people are connected in all sorts of ways. So you would
think nourishing relationships is easy. Though this seems not the case. More
and more people end up alone according to professionals. Loneliness is bad
for the development of the human. Relationships create psychological space
and safety so that we can explore and learn.51
The first relationship that is important for you is your relationship with your
family. All through your life you will stay connected to them, does not matter
whether you are in contact with them or not. Your family can give you
confidence and a warm place to hide when you need it.
Your family will always be behind even if that seems impossible.
“Do not be fooled. Bad companions ruin good character.” 1 Corinthians
15:33 (TEV). This quote from the bible gives away how important it is to pick
your company right. This is actually very logical. If you look around you most
of your friends will be quite similar to you. Of course everyone is different and
has different characteristics. Though social status and the financial
background of your friends are often closely related to your social status and
background. You seek for people who are a lot like you. But if you are seeking
for someone who resembles you, try seeking for someone with the right state
of mind. Friends with good ideas, good goals and a positive attitude can
change you. They will make you feel better. Though choosing your friends
who are a lot like you will keep you from growing. 52 Since they are at the
same level as you. Often you spend a lot of time with your friends. Real friends
will help you in good times and in bad times. They will offer you
companionships and a sense of belonging. Friends will listen to you and boost
your confidence. All of those effects make you a lot happier.
51 http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/connecting/connection-happiness
52 http://www.uklifecoaching.org/friends.htm
Living a healthy life determines a lot. It determines what you can or cannot
do and so it determines your life. Two things can determine whether you are
healthy or not. Your genes are the first. Maybe a disease is genetically
transmitted. And the second is your lifestyle. Maybe you lived your life drinking
and smoking. Then you influenced your health negatively. Having a bad
health has only little influence on your overall happiness.
Maybe you are extremely healthy. You eat good and exercise a lot. This often
means that you can do anything you want. You do not need to worry about
your health or well-being. Without this hold-back people tend to be a little
more happy.
This seems very logical. Everyone who is lucky enough to be healthy
automatically feels happier. Though research shows that this is not the case in
all situations. Lead author Erik Angner (professor of philosophy, economics
and public policy at George Mason University) wrote ‘the journal of happiness
Studies’. In this journal another theory came up. Everyone who is or has been
very ill appreciates life more than ever.53 They would give their lives a higher
average mark than ‘healthy’ people. A patient with prostate cancer for
instance, who is not very much affected by his condition appreciates his life.
Just because he knows that we do not own life.
There are many more external effects that influence our happiness. All of
those effects that seem so important only make up about 10% of the overall
chance on happiness. But it is in the choice you make every day and NOT the
external events around you that creates and sustains happiness in your life.54
Genes, intentional happiness and external factors affect happiness. It is the
combination of the three that make us happy or not. The clue in finding
happiness is not in desperately searching for it. It is in making right decisions
and hoping you have got the right genes!
“We hold happiness within a fairly narrow range of values”.55
How can we effectively measure happiness?
Up until know we have looked at what happiness actually is and which things
affect happiness. All of this is very interesting, but how do we actually know
who is happy and who is not? All over the world there have been
philosophers and economists wandering about these questions.
In the next couple of pages we are going to look at different case studies. We
have chosen tree ways to measure happiness. These studies all come down
to the same basic questions. Though there are differences in the outcomes.
Figure 2.1: Happiness mind map.
While brainstorming about how we could measure happiness we came upon
different words. Figure one is our own mind map.
Education: the quality of education is a key factor to the possible happiness
of a country. In a country with a good education system people are more
likely to be happy according to us. Education is important to a good future. A
society with a good system is often organized well. This means that there is
enough space for everyone to learn and grow.
Money: in this materialistic world money is very important. We guess that in a
country where people have more money, they are more likely to be happy.
Of course we do not say that people in poor countries are not happy. Though
we believe that when one is able to buy the things that they want, they will
be more content with happiness.
Quote from Robert A. Cummins from The World Book of Happiness.
Economy: in a country with a good economy there is plenty of work to do.
People are able to work and work turns out to make people more happy,
because they have a purpose in life. A country with a good economy is,
according to us, more likely to be happy.
Employment: this one is related to economy. If the economy is good there is
much employment. If there is much employment people will have a salary.
This means they have the ability to buy the things they want.
Personal safety: this is another very important facet for happiness. If you feel
safe and comfortable you are more likely to feel happy. This is because only
when you feel comfortable you are able to show who you really are.
Facilities: the amount of facilities in a country shows how much opportunities
people have. Facilities like sport associations, cinema’s and other cultural
accommodations show how much the government cares about his citizens.
Also how much money is set aside for other things than basic needs.
OECD Better life index
The OECD is an organization that promotes certain policies. Those policies
generally want to improve the economic and social well-being.56 They work
together to help people all over the world.
All the countries of the OECD work together and share their experiences. They
do a lot of research and send questionnaires all over the world. Common
problems can be solved. Together they take a look at the schooling system,
environment and safety. Furthermore they work together on the research
about happiness. They do this by means of the better life index.
This is the first index that we will discuss. The better life index has been set up in
May 2011. In this index 34 developed countries are examined. The following
countries are involved:
*Czech Republic
* Estonia
* Finland
* France
* Germany
* Greece
* Hungary
* Iceland
* Ireland
* United Kingdom
* Italy
* Korea
* Luxembourg
* Mexico
* Netherlands
* New Zealand
* Norway
* United States
* Poland
* Portugal
* Russian Federation
* Slovak Republic
* Slovenia
* Spain
* Sweden
* Switzerland
The reason why these countries have been chosen is very clear. Almost all of
those countries are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD). The OECD is a cooperation that brings together
the most developed economies and a few emerging countries. 57
Furthermore Brazil and Russia are the most important key-partners of the
OECD. This means that they are not officially member of the OECD but they
do have a close connection. Both countries fulfill an important role. They are
allowed to attend almost any OECD Committee. Brazil and Russia are
covered in many databases and are sometimes the subject of certain policy
This index aims to involve citizens in the well-being debate. 59 They believe
that everyone in the society has his own opinion about everything. All of those
opinions are important. What makes someone happy? Is it a combination
between several factors, or is it purely money or relationships?
The OECD became involved in the everlasting debate about happiness. How
to measure it and how important it is for the society. The organization chose
11 topics that they believe indicate happiness. They chose those topics
because they all had their individual meaning. Material living conditions and
the quality of life have been researched in all of those countries.
The eleven chosen topics:
Housing. This is one of the most important spaces for a human being. A
house is the place where you can be yourself. It is so much more than
just four walls and a roof. A house is your shelter. We may use our homes
to help distinguish ourselves.60 A house represents who you are and how
you want your life to be. Having a clean tight house might represent
someone who likes to be in control. The vast majority of OECD
households, 87%, are satisfied with their housing. The research focuses
on the living conditions. For instance the amount of people living in one
Income. Neither the OECD can avoid putting money into the list of
topics that influence happiness. No, money does not buy happiness,
but it is important. The money that is available for buying goods or
services differs per country and per person. Distribution of income,
59 http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/about/better-life-initiative/
60 http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/12/the-psychology-of-home-why-whereyou-live-means-so-much/249800/
disposable income and the differences between the incomes of
countries are looked at by all of those countries.
Jobs. Jobs and income have a strong connection. Though jobs mean
so much more than just the pay check. A job keeps you socially
connected, because there are a lot of people around you.
Furthermore working can help you build your self-esteem and
individuals develop themselves. OEDC looked at the level of
Community. The OECD looked at community because the social
environment is really important for the development of a human being.
They took the quantity and the quality of relationships into
consideration. And also the volunteer work in countries fall under the
community topic. This turned out to make people happier.
Education. The OECD investigated what percentage of the population
earned a high-school degree. This is important according to them
because a well-educated individual is more involved in the daily life
and will turn out to be happier. People who have been taught facts,
skills and competences can participate in the society more easily.
Environment. Surroundings are very important for the human being. The
OECD did research about the amount of green spaces. Because
having a place like that calms people down and give them a place to
relax. Furthermore they did research to find out how the environmental
problems in the country are tackled. Since nature is and will always be
important for a healthy life.
Civic engagement. How much the citizens are involved with the
community is also taken into account by the OECD. The transparency
of the government and the trust in the government is very important in
a stable community. A country in which there is lots of civic
engagement has often great public services and is governed in a fair
and proper way.
Health. Another important factor according to the OECD is health. The
public health is very important, and it is measured while looking at life
expectancy. Health care per country has also been taken into
account. A healthy country brings all sorts of benefits along. Like an
increase in productivity and wealth, reduced health care costs, good
social relations, and of course, a longer life.61
Life satisfaction. An important factor for happiness is how satisfied
someone is with his life. by means of surveys the OECD was able to
measure this very subjective topic. Feelings can be called facts,
however when comparing the ‘feelings’ to the quality of life, you will be
able to draw some conclusions. The more satisfied someone is with his
life, the happier he is.
Security. The next topic is all about personal safety. Also this one has
been researched with a survey. Does everyone feel safe while walking
on the street in the dark? Questions like those are asked to find out
whether people feel safe in their own country. An important factor for
happiness, because crime causes vulnerability.
Work-life balance. People are the happiest when the work-life balance
is perfect. Though it is not easy. Some find they work too much and
have no spare time, while other would like to work more.
Figure: 2.1: Personal better life index.
These are the eleven topics the OECD looked at to make a good ranking of
While filling in the index ourselves we explored what the best counties for us
are, to live in. We filled the index in according to what we find important in
our own lives. Figure two is the index that we filled in. To us education and
health are the most important indicators of all. This is because we believe that
education is the key to success. If we would create a world in which every
child gets education in a proper way, the future will look a lot brighter. The
knowledge those children gain can be used in the future, so it an investment.
Furthermore we believe that health is very important in our society. Not only
health itself is important, but healthcare is also very important in a happy
society. A healthy person can accomplish so much more than someone who
is in a constant struggle with its own health.
The results we got after filling in were we lived, how old we were and whether
we were male or female were interesting. The country we should live in is not
the Netherlands. If we wanted to live in the country that matches our index
we had to move to:
All of those countries generally look similar to our wishes. The countries were
we would not belong are for instance: Turkey, Mexico or the Russian
World happiness report
The next index we will be looking at is the world happiness report. This report
has been published by the Sustainable Development Solution Network
(SDSN). In 2012 UN secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched this organization.
The reason for launching it was the continued battle against problems
worldwide. Economical, social and environmental problems are all over the
world. The SDSN is an organization that wants to bring the entire world
together. They aim to work together with a group of very diverse people. All
of those people together would then be responsible for making various
This organization is directed by professor Jeffrey D. Sachs. He works closely
together with The high Level Panel of Eminent Persons. The power of the SDSN
is divided. The SDSN leadership Council is a board of the SDSN.
The Executive Committee is a smaller group of people. They oversee financial,
programmatic and other operational matters. 62
Thematic Groups contain involved experts. In total there are twelve of these
groups. All of them contain experts from all over the world. They are involved
in the technical side of the SDSN.
The SDSN Assembly contains everyone who is a member of the SDSN. All of
those members are allowed to participate in National or Regional SDSNs.
The Academic Committee focuses on education and curriculum design. This
is a small group of experts.
The world happiness report is edited by Professor John F. Helliwell, of the
University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for advanced
Happiness and well-being becomes more important each year. When in 2011
the UN General Assembly was in concert, the topic happiness also came
along. They wanted countries to start measuring the happiness of their
inhabitants. This report got a lot of attention. This was mainly because the
world happiness report was the first report on worldwide global happiness that
was released on the Internet. 63 It was released only two weeks before the
United Nations general assembly
The report used the data from the Gallup World Poll. The Gallup world Poll is
the source for most of the information the World Happiness Report is based
upon. The Poll set up in 2005 was set up by Dr. George Gallup. He said: ’If
democracy is about the will of the people, should not someone find out what
that will is?’ 64
Gallup made this question his life-goal. He succeeded. Now over 160
countries participate in his survey. The survey consists of 100 questions. These
questions all inform about important worldwide issues. For each and every
one of those countries the survey is the same. The way the questions are
asked and the question itself. The survey is spread through technology.
Though in the countries where technology optimal, they use a different
method. They will for instance have face-to-face interviews. Or they try to
seek contact over the phone.
We have searched for the survey ourselves in the internet. However we were
not able to fill it in. This is a very professional research. There are no online
The very first World Happiness Report is the one from 2012. It is a very detailed
report with lots of interesting facts. The report is divided into different chapters:
 The state of world happiness.
 Happiness across the world
 Happiness averages by country
 Comparing different measures
 Making the Case for Measuring Subjective Well-Being
 The causes of happiness and misery
 Income
 Work
 Values and religion
 Mental health
 Physical health
 The family
64 http://www.gallup.com/services/170945/world-poll.aspx
 Education
 Gender
 Age
Some policy implications
 New policy priorities
 The formation of policy
Case study: Bhutan
 Origins of the Concept of GNH
 Purpose of the 2010 GNH index
 GNH survey 2010
 Domains and indicators
 Psychological Well-being
 Health
 Culture
 Time use
 Good governance
 Community vitality
 Ecological diversity and resilience
 Living standards
 Weighting
 What does the GNH index show us?
Case study: ONS
 The Measurement of Subjective Well-Being
 Further Testing and Development of Subjective Well-Being
Case study: OECD
 Rationale
 Scope
This is the content of the report written on the happiness worldwide.
The World Happiness Research took a different stand than the Better life
index. Not only was the WHR earlier with it report, it is also a lot bigger. The
Better Life Index only did research in a few countries. These countries were all
quite wealthy. Whereas there are many more countries used for the World
Happiness Research. The way the WHR measured happiness was more
thouroughfully. They did not have their own survey though worked closely
together with the Gallup.
The conclusion of the report:
‘Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more and are also
better citizens.’65
Furthermore does this report show that happiness is important in every
country. The skeptics now find hard evidence about the importance of
happiness. The report can teach us a lot about how to improve our world.
The Happy Planet Index
The happy planet index is the third and the last way of effectively measuring
happiness that we will discuss. This index is again slightly different from the two
who came before. The Happy Planet Index was founded in 2006. It did not
take very long before this index was discovered. It only took two days for the
report to be downloaded in over 185 countries. The Index is a project from the
New Economics Foundation. The New Economics Foundation is a think tank
from the United Kingdom. They take a stand for social, economic and
environmental justices.66
What sets the Happy Planet Index apart from the other two reports is their
interest in the environment. The HPI is one of the first index that uses
sustainability to make a ranking of the well-being of countries. The countries
that pollute the most are not the happiest according to them. How could you
be happy if you damage the environment?
The NEF (New Economics Foundation) came up with the idea of the Happy
Planet index a couple of years ago. 67The reason why they did this was very
clear. The 21st century is dominated by the economy. Though we ca not
longer hide from the problems we might have caused to the environment.
The New Economics Foundation decided to create a index that clearly
showed which country is progressing in a good and mature way. The human
progress is reported and their main question was: ‘What is the extent to which
countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in
Another facet the Index is really aiming on is the future. The index is a great
way to show the situation of today. Though this is not the real goal. GEF tells us
how nations are doing in supporting their inhabitant to love good lives now,
while ensuring that others can do the same in the future. 69
67 http://happyplanetplatform.nl/happy-planet-index/
68 http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/measuring-what-matters-the-happy-planetindex-2012
69 http://www.happyplanetindex.org/assets/happy-planet-index-report.pdf
The outcome of the Happy Planet Index is quite different from the outcome
that you might suspect:
Figure 3.1: Happy planet index.70
The three components there are talking about in figure three are:
o Ecological footprint is the impact one human being has on the
environment. The human activities are measured In the amount of the
environment necessary to produce the goods and services one human
o Life expectancy is the estimated age someone will reach. Often this
number is estimated at birth. Life expectancy differs per country, time,
gender and is influences by many other factors. Also lifestyle,
healthcare, diet and economical status determine how long you will
have to live.72
72 http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Life-Expectancy.aspx
o Life satisfaction needs two factors 73 . The first factor required is the
presence of all the conditions that you need in order to live a good life.
The second factor is the practice of a good living. Are you happy with
your life or is there something missing?
As you can see in figure three there are no deep green countries in our world.
That means that there is not a single country in the world that scores ‘good’
on ecological footprint, life expectancy or life satisfaction. We do see that
there is a region in America that has a light green color. This means that they
score well on two of the three components. Though in Europe we see a lot of
orange. We scored low on at least one of the components. Africa has overall
got the red color. This is most presumably due to the low life expectancy and
low life satisfaction.
Figure 3.2: Happy planet index experienced well-being.
Figure 3.2 shows which countries experience the best well-being. The
countries with the green color are in general the ones with the highest sense
of well-being. The orange countries are in the middle and the red ones are of
course the countries that experience the lowest sense of well-being. We can
see that America, big parts of Europe and Oceania are in general the ones
with the highest well-being.
Figure 3.3: Happy planet index life expectancy.
In figure five we see the world colored with regard to life expectancy. Again
green is positive and red is negative. The map of life expectancy and well
being is quite similar. Though in this map we see slight differences. Brazil for
example is colored orange in the map of life expectancy, while it is green
when we talk about well-being.
Figure 3.4: Happy planet index ecological footprint.
In figure 3.4 we see the ecological footprint of every country in our world.
Again it is graded in colors. In this figure we see that the countries that
experience good well-being and a high life-expectancy are colored red
more often.
The happy planet index is very much focused on the combination of a happy
life without affecting the environment with that. None of the countries have
been able to be fully 100% happy according to this index. Though the
research did show that is was important to look at the environmental effects
as well. Plus, it is very nice for the countries to get credits for living happy in a
healthy way. This index should encourage more and more countries to work
on their flaws.
For the richer countries this flaw is often the ecological footprint. Looking at
the figure above we see a lot of red. Europe, North America, Russia, Australia
and a other countries should try to reduce more. The ecological footprint
measures the human demand on the nature. 74
Other countries like the African ones have another flaw. Their life expectancy
is very low. Famine, corrupt government officials, lack of education and
medication are only a few reasons for the low life expectancy. 75 This index
shows how shocking the differences are between countries. We need to work
together and help each other.
The report written 2012 contains the following chapters:
New economy, new indicators
A measure of sustainable well-being
Results: An amber planet
Steps towards a happy planet
Measuring the happiness of the different countries they used a formula that
no one ever did:
Happy planet index ≈ experienced well being x life expectancy
---------------------------------------------------------------------Ecological footprint76
The New Economics Foundation came up with this formula. All of the
questioned asked in the survey are or based on well-being, or on life
expectancy or on your ecological footprint.
When we did this survey it turned out we had a happy planet score of 63.9.
Even though this is above the average of 54.3 it is below the target. The HPItarget is a score of 89 out of 100 by 2050. That represents a good life that does
not cost us the world. 77 This would mean that the footprint has to decrease
to an amount of 1.7 Global hectares. The life satisfaction needs to receive an
average mark of an eight on a scale from one to ten and the life expectancy
needs to increase to an age of 87 78 . If we reach that we would life a
completely happy life that does not affect the life on earth.
Topics questioned were:
 Life satisfaction
 Feeling good
 Doing well
 Connecting with others
 Freedom to be yourself
 Self-esteem and making a difference
Tips to reach 89: 79
 Get more involved in the community. If doing this good, it will both
benefit your social being as well as developing new skills.
 Volunteer for a charity. This will make you more aware of the problems
in the world. Furthermore it gives you a sense of doing something
78 http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/the-happy-planet-index-2-0
79 http://www.happyplanetindex.org/survey/feedback.php
The main difference between this index and the others is the general topic.
Whereas other indexes focus purely on the happiness of the human, the
happy planet index looks at the happiness of the environment as well. They
stand for long, happy and sustainable lives.
We could also say that the outcome of the investigations is totally different.
Costa Rica ended on top again in 2012.80 Costa Rica is not even questioned
in the better life index. And in the World happiness report it reached the 12 th
place in 2013.81
There are all sorts of ways to effectively measure happiness. The key is in your
own interest. General happiness is often measured by looking at the wellbeing of humans. Factors as work, relationships, health etcetera all play a role
in this. Looking at the Better life index happiness is created by striving for eight
basic principles. This is a very effective way of measuring, because filling in the
survey does not take long and gives a clear answer.
If you want a more detailed look on happiness you should widen your
perspective, just like the world happiness report. They measured happiness
much more in a detailed manner. Their survey is not available online. The
survey is spread in a very organized way. This makes it more difficult and more
expensive, but also more accurate. The survey is not only filled in by people
using the Internet, but also by people who do not have Internet at all. The
Happiness Report asked a lot of questions. Doing so they measure happiness
on a different manner. Step by step they explore if someone is happy and if
so, why that person is happy. Or why that person is not happy. This is another
effective way of measuring happiness, because it is very detailed and
Looking at what is best for the human kind and for the world is examined in
The Happy Planet Index. The index does not only show who the happiest
country is. It shows the country that has the best combination of happiness
and sustainability. Another affective way to measure how happy we are after
all. All of those indexes and surveys have their own main interest. Researchers
use their own angle to look at happiness. This gives us lots of information to
work with. Measuring how happy you or your community is can be done in all
sorts of ways.
We personally think that the World Happiness Report is the most valuable
index of the three that we discussed. Merely for the fact that the report is very
81 http://www.ticotimes.net/2013/09/10/costa-rica-ranks-12th-in-world-happiness-report
official. There are lots of countries involved. Furthermore did they expand their
research to more people? More social categories have been questioned.
Their index is best in our opinion because it is the report with the most
“Paradise is definitely not a place to go, if nobody is there”.82
What are the happiest countries in the world? And what
makes Bhutan one of the happiest places in the world?
Everywhere you look in the world there are signs of instability, destruction and
hopelessness. Still there are a lot of countries, which seem to be very happy.
The distinction goes to countries, which have freedom, peace, good
healthcare, quality education, a functioning political system and a lot of
There are more lists of the happiest countries in the World. They all measure
happiness in a different way and they use different variables to measure
which country has the highest life satisfaction.
OECD as part of Better Life Index
Based on figures published by the OECD as part of its annual Better Life Index,
they reviewed variables measured for each of the member nations and
participating countries. Housing, income, jobs, community, education, the
environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life
balance constitute the Better Life Index. 83
Life satisfaction measures how people feel about their life as a whole, not only
their current feelings. Self-reported good health is measured by asking in
surveys “How is your health?” This is a way of measuring a health status. The
answers given to this question seem to be a good predictor of people’s future
health care use. With employees working long hours they mean the balance
between work and leisure time, so the amount a person spends at work. By
disposable income we mean the amount of money that a household earns,
or gains, each year after taxes and transfers. It represents the money
available to households for spending on goods or services. Life expectancy is
the most used measure of health. It only measures the length of people’s life
and not their quality of life. 84
According to the Better Life Index these are the five happiest countries in the
1. Switzerland
- Life satisfaction score: 7.8 (on a scale from 1 to 10)
- Self-reported good health: 81% (7th highest)
- Employees working long hours: 7.3% (17th highest)
- Disposable income: $30,745 (5th highest)
Quote from Elie G. Karam from The World Book of Happiness
Ranking according to the Better Life Index 2014
84 Background information from www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org
- Life expectancy: 82.2 years (the highest)
This is not the first year that Switzerland is being ranked higher than any other
country in the life happiness score. There are a few countries, which have
been rated higher than Switzerland in measures of wealth. Swiss residents had
$30,745 in household disposable income per person. Jobs were relatively
plenteous, because 79% of the working-age population (aged 15 to 64 years)
is employed. This is the second highest rate reviewed by the OECD. Residents
also felt more secure than other people in any other country. Residents in
Switzerland are being reviewed as extremely healthy; this is because of the
wealth and security in employment. Life expectancy in Switzerland is rated
very high. It was 82.2 years for the residents. And more than 80% of the
population of Switzerland felt like they were in good health.
2. Norway
- Life satisfaction score: 7.7 (on a scale from 1 to 10)
- Self-reported good health: 73% (15th highest)
- Employees working long hours: 3.1% (6th lowest)
- Disposable income: $32,093 (3rd highest)
- Life expectancy: 81.4 years (10th highest)
Norway had an unemployment rate of only 3.5%, which is the half of the
OECD’s average unemployment rate of 7.9%. Norwegian workers earned
$46,618 annually. This score is one of the highest reviewed by OECD on
income. Norway’s wealth comes from the energy sectors; their economy
relies on its oil industry. Norway’s environmental quality is very good. More
than 90% of the Norwegians were satisfied with their life.
3. Canada
- Life satisfaction score: 7.6 (on a scale from 1 to 10)
- Self-reported good health: 88% (3rd highest)
- Employees working long hours: 4.0% (11th lowest)
- Disposable income: $30,212 (7th highest)
- Life expectancy: 81.0 years (17th highest)
Canada’s per person disposable income exceeded $30,000. Nevertheless,
high income and wealth alone do not explain happiness. They have only
been ranked 17th in life expectancy. Also Canadians are more likely to work
than to be unemployed if you compare them to the United States of
America, which also contribute to higher evaluations of their lives.
4. Denmark
- Life satisfaction score: 7.6 (on a scale from 1 to 10)
- Self-reported good health: 71% (17th highest)
- Employees working long hours: 2.1% (4th lowest)
- Disposable income: $25,172 (15th highest)
- Life expectancy: 79.9 years (12th lowest)
Just like for example Norway, Denmark’s government plays an important role
in the live of its residents. Denmark has high taxes rates and a comprehensive
welfare system, which play both a large role. Denmark has a perfect work-life
balance according to the Better Life Index, this probably contributed to a
high life satisfaction. The residents of Denmark are also very high educated.
People spent on average 19.2 years in school.
5. Austria
- Life satisfaction score: 7.5 (on a scale from 1 to 10)
- Self-reported good health: 69% (tied-17th highest)
- Employees working long hours: 8.6% (15th lowest)
- Disposable income: $29,256 (9th highest)
- Life expectancy: 81.1 years (13th highest)
Austrians are rated as a country with a high employment. Austria had
working-age population of 73%, while the OECD had a working-age
population of 65%. Austrians feel really secure about their jobs. They were also
quite happy with their community they are living in. 95% says they have a
support network where they can rely on. The social safety net and health
care increase the quality of life as well in Austria.
The Netherlands
The Netherlands have been ranked 10th of the 34 countries that have been
measured by the OECD Better Life Index.
- Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (on a scale from 1 to 10)
- Self-reported good health: 76% (11th highest)
- Employees working long hours: 0.6% (2nd lowest)
- Disposable income: $25,697 (14th highest)
- Life expectancy: 81.3 years (11th highest)
In the Netherlands the percentage of working-age residents with a job is one
of the highest of all OECD countries with a percentage of 75%. Dutch citizens
spend more than 15 hours a day to leisure time and personal care, among
the fifth highest measured by the OECD Better Life Index. Because of a good
balance between work and leisure time, the Netherlands have been ranked
as one of the best countries for work-life balance. Only 0.6% of the working
population has worked long hours, less than in any nation which has been
reviewed by OECD except for the Russian Federation. A good work-life
balance together with high earnings probably have contributed to a high life
satisfaction of its citizens. The average earnings of an employee in the
Netherlands ($45,362) is significantly higher than all the other countries
measured by the OECD. 85
Ranking of the happiest countries according to the Better Life Index, www.247wallst.com
World Happiness Report
The World Happiness Report has made a top ten list of the happiest countries. They
look at earnings, living standard, employment, mental health and family stability. 86
1. Denmark
Denmark, with a population of 5.5 million, has been named the world’s
happiest country in the World Happiness Report. Denmark has topped the
European Commission’s Eurobarometer scale ever since 1973. In this scale
countries are surveyed to measure well-being and happiness amongst its
citizens. The capital city of Denmark, Copenhagen, was also named the
world’s most livable city.
2. Norway
Norway has been topped the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index of the
world’s happiest countries. 95% of the people who were surveyed were
pleased with the freedom they have of choosing the direction of their own
lives. Norway also has the second highest level of satisfaction with their
standards of living.
3. Switzerland
Switzerland has been named the most competitive country in the world by
the World Economic Forum report for the fifth year. This results in higher
welfare. Switzerland has also been recognized for its excellent institutions
(universities, research centers, etc.), the dynamism of its markets and its
capacity for innovation.
4. Netherlands
The Netherlands is for the second time, the fourth happiest country according
to the World Happiness Report. The Netherlands scored highest in the
categories of freedom, donation and generosity. It was ranked third in terms
of GDP per capita. With an average income of $36,854 per year. The Dutch
became fourth in the social support category. Citizens believe that they have
a strong support system around them. The corruption category placed the
Netherlands in a sixth place. Also the life expectancy of the Dutch citizens is
very high, on average for women 83 years and for men 79 years.
5. Sweden
Sweden is one of the happiest countries is the world, because the Swedish
population is giving their lives an average satisfaction grade of 7.6. This is one
of the highest satisfaction scores in the OECD.
6. Canada
Canada has a very high average on life expectance and income. Over 90%
of the Canadians say that they have someone in their lives to rely on. Also the
Ranking of The World Happiness Report 2013
majority feels like they are experiencing more positive moments in a day than
negative moments, according to the Better Life Index.
7. Finland
Finland has been ranked with the highest quality of life by Legatum Institute’s
Prosperity Index. Finland also has been ranked as the most peaceful country
in the world by the Global Peace Index.
8. Austria
Austria has been ranked as one of the wealthiest countries of the world,
according to figures from the International Monetary Fund.
9. Iceland
Iceland offers its citizens a relatively low income tax, free health care for
everyone and post-secondary education. The Global Peace Index has rated
Iceland the most peaceful country in the world. The Global Peace Index
takes several factors into account such as freedom of the press, perceived
willingness to fight in wars, access to weapons, violent crime, gender
inequality and political corruption.
10. Australia
Australia is one of the most popular and beautiful places to go to in the world.
Melbourne, the capital city of Australia, has been named the best city in the
world to live in, according the Economist Intelligence Unit global livability
study. This study looks at crime levels, threat of conflict, quality of health care,
temperature, education and transport.
Happy Planet Index
The new Happy Planet Index results show the extent to which 151 countries in
the world produce long, happy and sustainable lives for its citizens. The index
ranks countries based on their efficiency, and how many happy lives each
country produces. Below you can see the top 10 of happiest countries.
The components: experienced well-being, life expectancy and ecological
footprint are given a score based on good, middling and a bad
performance. Together with the Happy Planet Index score they look at the
best. To score high as a country all components must be good. 87
Life expectancy
1. Costa Rica
2. Vietnam
Ranking of the Happy Planet Index
3. Colombia
4. Belize
5. El Salvador
6. Jamaica
7. Panama
8. Nicaragua
9. Venezuela
10. Guatemala
*Costa Rica's HPI score reflects high life expectancy, high levels of
experienced well-being, and a moderate ecological footprint.
*Vietnam's HPI score reflects high life expectancy, 'middling' levels of
experienced well-being, and a low ecological footprint.
*Colombia's HPI score reflects a relatively high life expectancy, relatively high
levels of experienced well-being, and a moderate ecological footprint.
*Belize's HPI score reflects high life expectancy, relatively high levels of
experienced well-being, and a moderate ecological footprint.
*El Salvador's HPI score reflects a relatively high life expectancy, relatively
high levels of experienced well-being, and a moderate ecological footprint.
*Jamaica's HPI score reflects a relatively high life expectancy, relatively high
levels of experienced well-being, and a low ecological footprint.
*Panama's HPI score reflects high life expectancy, high levels of experienced
well-being, and a moderately high ecological footprint.
*Nicaragua's HPI score reflects a relatively high life expectancy, 'middling'
levels of experienced well-being, and a low ecological footprint.
*Venezuela's HPI score reflects a relatively high life expectancy, high levels of
experienced well-being, and a moderately high ecological footprint.
*Guatemala's HPI score reflects a relatively high life expectancy, relatively
high levels of experienced well-being, and a low ecological footprint.
Differences and similarities between these three rankings
Better Life Index – World Happiness Report – Happy Planet Index
The variable life satisfaction is measured in all the rankings, because
happiness is all about being satisfied in life. Health is measured in the Better
Life Index and in the World Happiness Report. The Happy Planet Index only
measures the life expectancy. While The Better Life Index both measures
health and life expectancy. World Happiness Report is the only ranking, which
actually looks at living standards and livability. All the three rankings take up
earnings and disposable income into their measurements, because this plays
an important role. Education seems to play a less big role into the
measurements, because only World Happiness Report uses this variable in
their measurements. Family Stability is being measured in the World Happiness
Report as well. All the rankings except Better Life Index think that freedom,
peace, safety and security play an important role in measuring happiness.
Life satisfaction
Life expectancy
Living standards
Livability (cities)
Employment/long working hours
Earnings/disposable income
Family stability
OECD as part of
Better Life Index
World Happiness
Happy Planet
Figure 4.1: Differences and similarities between the earlier mentioned rankings. 88
Best ranking according to our opinion
According to our opinion the ranking of the happiest countries in the world of
the World Happiness Report are the best. Because they use the most variables
to measure happiness and well-being. Also they explain their measurements
well and they have used lots of other resources such as Legatum Institute’s
Prosperity Index. In this way the results are very reliable and they really define
happiness in all aspects. The World Happiness Report does not measure life
expectancy, but it is strongly related to health measurement, so we think it
does not make a great difference whether life expectancy is taken into
account or not.
Changes of happiness in countries over time
In 2012, the first World Happiness Report was released. Measuring and
Figure 4.1 made by ourselves
analyzing happiness and well-being caused international attention, because
this was the first time global happiness has been surveyed. This report also
examines trends over time. They go more into the analysis of the global
happiness and well-being data and they break scores down into component
parts, so that citizens as well as policy makers can understand the ranking of
their country.
In the World Happiness Report of 2013 they use six variables, which explain
three-quarter of the variation in scores over time and among different
countries. The factors are: life satisfaction, health, living standards, livability,
employment/working long hours, earnings/disposable income, education,
family stability, freedom/peace and safety/security. Looking at the data we
can see some significant changes in happiness and well-being in countries all
over the world over time. Some countries have been rising and others have
been falling over the past five years. More and more countries in Sub-Saharan
Africa and in Latin America are gaining higher happiness levels. Industrial
countries are losing happiness. In 60 countries happiness has significantly
improved while in 41 countries happiness has worsened.
The figure below gives some idea of the variety of trend experiences within
each region, for the 130 countries at the beginning and the end of the 200507 and 2010-12 period. It shows the percentages of countries in which life
evaluations have grown significantly, not changed by a significant amount.
Figure 4.2: Countries with Rising and Falling Happiness, from: The World Happiness Report.
Bhutan, one of the happiest places on earth
They say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but still there are many people
looking for it in stores. There is still an assumption that people cannot be
happy while they are poor. Yet Bhutan is offering a lesson to us all.
In Bhutan it is all about happiness. It is a Buddhist kingdom high in the
Himalayas between India and China. Bhutan has gradually opened itself to
the world and it has projected its philosophy of ‘the Gross National
Happiness’. They believe that a society should be measured not only by its
material indicators, but also by health, education and the happiness of its
citizens. So how do they do it? What do the citizens of Bhutan do different
than we to become happy people?
They try to manage spiritual and material happiness equally. Here in the
western world we overvalue material things. Most of us get happier when we
have the latest iPhone or the latest fashion. This is not the most successful way
to become happier, because all of this can cause unneeded stress and
unhappiness when we actually can not afford those things. In Bhutan they
manage to balance their material possessions and their spirituality, which
helps them to become happy. The citizens of Bhutan do not care whether
they have the latest iPhone or not. They just appreciate being alive.
They have the fastest growing Gross Domestic Product in the world. Bhutan’s
GDP has been growing steadily over the last several years. This is because
they allow India to invest heavily in hydro-power in their country. Bhutan is
becoming rich very quickly just by managing their resources. When people
are making money, everyone is happy.
The citizens of Bhutan don’t care about TV, radio, or the Internet. Lets face it;
media makes us feel terrible about ourselves. On the television we see horrible
things on the news or we get jealous at celebrities. On the Internet we also
experience all sorts of bad things. In the western world, we all get obsessed
with social media and get upset when we for example do not get our retweets or likes on Facebook. Life would be a lot easier if we did not have to
deal with that. Life would generally be better.
50% of Bhutan is protected as a national part. The landscape and the
environment are really important to the citizens in Bhutan. Half of their country
is a national park. The forest, animals, and environment are strictly protected.
Also Bhutan announced that 60% of their country is safe from things like
deforestation permanently. Caring this much about the planet makes people
feel happier.
Most of the citizens of Bhutan are Buddhist. Buddhism is one of the most calm
and happy religions on Earth. Buddhists believe in good and bad karma. The
People who live their life well are closer to enlightenment and will be
reincarnated as better creatures when they are reborn. This encourages them
to live good lives, help others in need, and be a good person.
They actually measure their own happiness. In Bhutan the government wants
their population to become the happiest citizens they can be. The
government actually measures their countries happiness using the Gross
National Happiness. The government is not the best at providing happiness to
their citizens, but the fact that they acknowledge and measure happiness
makes them probably better at keeping the happiness in their country than
any other government.
Bhutan is a beautiful country. Bhutan is situated in the Himalaya Mountains
and more then 60% of the country is untouched wilderness. The population
lives there probably more preferable, peaceful, and visually enjoyable than in
the middle of a city every day.
There is not a great gap between normal people and royalties. The people of
Bhutan are very close with each other. The way that normal people and
royalty people live together helps everyone becoming happy.
People from Bhutan are well rested. Somewhere around 2/3 of all Bhutanese
people get at least eight hours of sleep per night. There are a lot of benefits of
sleeping on happiness.
There is almost no pollution in Bhutan. Bhutanese people live in less pollution
than everyone else. Of course they do have some things that cause pollution
such as vehicles. However, they have waste-producing businesses. They make
the air, water, and ground much cleaner. 89
Statistics of the GNH survey in Bhutan
In order to set up indicators, the Gross National Happiness developed a
detailed questionnaire covering nine key areas considered very important for
reflecting the values and principles of the GNH. The key areas are
psychological wellbeing, health, time use, education, culture, good
governance, ecology, community vitality and living standard. Below you can
see some statistics of the Gross National Happiness survey of 2010. 90
From The World Book of Happiness, Johannes Hirata, Bhutan
From The Gross Nationall Happiness site: www.grossnationalhappiness.com
Figure 4.3: Distribution of people by happiness, from: The Gross National Happiness survey.
In the graph “Distribution of people by happiness” the GNH shows us the
percentages of people’s happiness on a scale from 0 to 10. Only a few people feel
unhappy. Almost 30% of the people feel neither unhappy nor happy. Around 20% of
the people feel quite happy. And around 5% of the people feel very happy.
Figure 4.4: Quality of Life, from: The Gross National Happiness survey
In this graph “Quality of Life” the GNH shows us the percentage of people who
experience their lives very poor to poor, neither poor nor good, or good to very
good. Only 8% of the people of Bhutan experience their lives poor to poor. 37% of
the people of Bhutan experience their lives neither poor nor good. More than half of
the people of Bhutan, 55%, experience their lives good to very good.
Figure 4.5: Satisfaction with livelihood, from: The Gross National Happiness survey
In this graph “Satisfaction with livelihood” the GNH shows us the percentage
of people who feel very dissatisfied, dissatisfied, neither satisfied nor
dissatisfied, satisfied, or very satisfied with their livelihood. Only 1% of the
people of Bhutan feel very dissatisfied with their livelihood. 4% of Bhutanese
people feel dissatisfied. 12 % of the people are in the middle; they feel neither
satisfied nor dissatisfied. Most of the people of Bhutan, 65%, feel satisfied with
their livelihood. And almost 1 out of 5 people, 18%, feel very satisfied with their
livelihood in Bhutan.
“The core is being able to fulfil our targets and
aspirations at the broader levels of society”.91
How can measurements of happiness contribute to
policies aimed at the development and progress of
The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed that political wisdom was one type
of practical wisdom and that the goal of politics should be the happiness or
well being of society, what we might label as the common good. Such
happiness required people to live according to reason and to be virtuous. He
thought that “the true student of politics is thought to have studied virtue
above all things.”
Emphasis on subjective measures
The progress of societies should not be measured only from objective
measurements, but also from subjective measurements directly assessed with
the populations concerned. Just by asking simple questions as “how do you
feel?” or “how satisfied are you with your life?”. With these subjective scales,
we can understand how different dimensions such as personal security,
community, health and standard of living can all add to a person’s sense of
well being.
People give more importance and weight to non-material values when
assessing satisfaction with their lives. This is the reason why we can often find
more satisfied people in societies that have been defined as
underdeveloped countries. Those people search for meaning and support,
which in turn gives them a sense of higher well being, compared to people
who live in more wealthy societies.
To be able to use measurements of subjective well-being as indicators for
public policy, it is important to distinguish different concepts and meanings
associated with these indicators. We are not only looking to identify
happiness, but also well-being. In this way well being becomes the ultimate
goal for both public policy and personal realisation.
The public policies of subjective well-being measures within the context of the
social indicators movement also play an important role. Global problems all
point to the increased importance of the social indicator movement, which
looks for alternative measures for understanding the development and
progress of societies. Emphasis on subjective measures of well being will lead
to a change in the short term, with regard to methods for the formulation of
new objectives for public policy. Encouragement of social networks for
Quote from Luisa Corrado from The World Book of Happiness
affective and material support of the most vulnerable must become an
important public policy objective.92
Using well being as a guide to policy in countries
Happiness and well-being has been measured in different countries for a
while now. We also start to learn what influences happiness and what does
and does not raise well-being. How could this knowledge be used to make
new and better policies in terms of improved outcomes?
As we mentioned before more and more countries are starting to measure
their progress with reference to the happiness of their citizens. Bhutan has
gone the furthest. Countries like the UK are now systematically collecting data
on happiness and life satisfaction. The OECD is leading the way in developing
clear standards so that the happiness and life satisfaction can be compared
between multiple countries. There are also many private organizations which
collect well being data across the world.
Governments and international institutions use more data of happiness and
well-being. There is a growing consensus on two points: firstly, that GDP is a
very partial and imperfect measure, and secondly, that measures of
subjective well-being have an important role in defining success and
happiness. Of course they should not only use happiness as a measure.
Still at the macroeconomic level, politicians have found it not easy to move
the focus on commentary away from GDP towards well-being measures. This
is in part due to the fact that they hardly try to draw attention away from the
economic realities of the world, particularly in those countries struggling to
recover from the consequences of the financial crash in 2007-2008.
Well-being measurements take a number of forms. Some countries use survey
data to measure how happy their citizens’ feel, while other countries ask
about overall satisfaction with life. Lots of international organisations use
different factors to come to a conclusion. They use less subjective data such
as life expectancy and freedoms. It is hard to say whether these different
factors and indicators should be combined to be able to produce a single
measure. Also every government uses different indicators and will place
different weight on these various indicators. Countries and researchers are
using more and more subjective well-being measures to formulate better
policies as well as to measure the success of those policies.
Different countries also have a great interest in the spatial distribution of wellbeing. This is because there is no evidence for the large spatial divergence in
well-being. Those divergences are not explained by differences in income.
There are many policies designed by the government to reduce economic
inequalities, such as progressive tax systems. A progressive tax is a tax where
The World Book of Happiness
the tax rate increases as your income increases. Income equality is one of the
biggest pros that progressive tax advocates promote. Those individuals who
earn more pay more into the federal government. This helps keeps the
income gap from growing wider between the rich and the poor. Social
Justice is another advantage. Some argue that it is morally right that those
who can afford to pay more in taxes should do so. Those that have very little
income should be helped out by those who can afford to help. A progressive
tax allows governments to collect money from those who can afford to pay,
and uses it to help create a society that is happier as a result. A progressive
system also allows governments to collect more money from higher income
earners. This results in more money collected, rather than if everyone paid the
same percentage. As a result, the government can provide more programs
and services that benefit society. However, progressive taxation has its critics.
They argue first that the system violates the basic principle that all people are
equal under the law, since it treats the poor and the wealthy differently.
Another objection to progressive taxes is that they create unfair
representation; if for example 10% of the population is funding 60% of the tax
base of a country, they still receive only 10% representation in the
government since paying more tax does not earn more voting power.
Progressive taxes have also been demonstrated to lower overall savings rates,
a situation that most countries wish to avoid.
Policy makers are now trying to design a policy, which reduces spatial
inequalities. At micro level, governments are trying to incorporate well-being
data into standard policy making. They make these incorporations because
of the need for government intervention often arises because of risks to
individuals’ well being. For example the misery caused by unemployment. This
lowers the public sector budgets and private incomes. When people get
back to work they start paying taxes, do not collect any benefits, and maybe
the most important thing is that their self-esteem rises. They are also better
capable of looking after their families and do not have to rely on the state. 93
Some practical and political obstacles
Governments from various countries are more and more realizing that using
well-being of their citizens will lead to better policies. However, some are
worried about whether all practical as well as political obstacles can be
overcome. And how all these policies based on well being can be
implemented successfully. Many policies have upfront costs, but the benefits
are not directly visible. In order to gain some patience from the citizens of a
country the government should involve the public as much as they can in the
policy decisions.
Putting the focus on well-being often means experimenting. It is highly
doubtful that a well-being analysis will immediately lead to a perfect policy.
The World Happiness Report and Report: Happiness, Economics and Public Policy
The process of testing options on policy making can cause problems. It can
take a very long time, experimenting can as well involve treating identical
groups differently, which is a political challenge. Overcoming these obstacles
require a communication strategy between the researchers and policy
The benefits of subjective well-being
There are many benefits of subjective well-being, which can help to develop
our society. Firstly, if we take a look at the category health and longevity we
can say that there is a reduced inflammation, improved cardiovascular
health, immune and endocrine systems, lowered risk of heart disease,
practicing good health behaviours, a faster speed of recovery, survival and
longevity. There is evidence about the processes that mediate between
happiness and its beneficial outcomes. For example, adversity and stress in
childhood is associated with higher inflammation later in life. Evidence also
suggests a causal link between positive feelings and reduced inflammatory,
cardiovascular and neuroendocrine problems. Also a high subjective wellbeing influences our habits, such as healthier eating, likelihood of smoking,
exercise, and weight. And happier people tend to live longer and they do
have a lower risk of mortality.
Secondly, the category income, productivity and organizational behaviour. If
we are happier we have an increased productivity, better financial
performances, reduced absenteeism, we are more creative and flexible, we
can work better together, we have a higher income and are better
organized. For these benefits there has been found evidence as well.
Researchers have found out that individuals who are happy were more
productive in an experimental setting. Happy workers were also more likely to
be rated highly in terms of financial performance. Among employees
happiness can increase creativity and motivation. We can associate wellbeing with better earnings. An important avenue for future research is to
determine why rising incomes have weak effects on positive feelings such as
enjoying life. One would imagine that enjoyable activities such as fine food,
travel, and better health, as well as comforts such as more reliable heating
and cooling, might raise the enjoyment of life. One possible reason that
income might in general not produce higher enjoyment of life is that incomeproducing work is less enjoyable than social leisure. However, higher income
women enjoyed both work and leisure more than poorer women according
to Kahneman et al. The relation of income change and changes in feelings is
a very important avenue for further future research.94
Report/research: Rising Income and the Subjective Well-Being of Nations
Finally, the category individual and social behaviour. This category has
benefits as well when people are happy. We have longer-term time
preferences, reduced consumption and increased savings, more
employment, pro-social behaviour, more social relationships and networks.
Researchers have found out in experiments that individuals with a higher wellbeing are willing to obtain a smaller benefit in the moment in order to obtain
a larger benefit in the future. Other studies find evidence that happier people
spend less than unhappy people and try to save more money. Evidence from
surveys show that people who are more happy are more likely to be reemployed than those who are not as happy. Also people who are satisfied
and happy donate more time and money to people around them.
All this existing evidence indicates that subjective well-being has a great
impact on behavioural traits and life outcomes. High subjective well-being
does have a great influence on our society. If people are happier, than we
are more capable of developing our society and policies.95
Problems with using happiness date for policymaking
The use of happiness data is a new interest for many policymakers. Many
governments around the world are more and more using measurements of
happiness, also called subjective well-being, as alternative to gross domestic
product for the purpose of policymaking. There are several reasons why
happiness date cannot be used as a guide for policymaking. The term
happiness has several meanings to different people. For researchers and
policymakers it is very difficult to define and measure happiness in a way that
generates useful data that can be used for policymaking.
Mark D. White argues that there are three problematic aspects of happiness
and he explains why each aspect of happiness may be a poor guide for
1. Definition. Happiness is a complex concept. Defining the word
happiness is very difficult for researcher and policymakers. Everyone
has different ideas of what happiness means. Researchers and
philosophers have been arguing about the meaning of happiness for
thousands of years and still have not found an official understanding of
the concept.
2. Measurement. Even if researchers could define happiness, it is still
something, which cannot be measured with great confidence. For
example, if happiness were measured on a scale of zero to ten, would
zero mean the absence of happiness or profound unhappiness? And
would ten mean that no more happiness is possible? How can
The World Happiness Report and The Better Life Index
A paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University by scholar Mark D. White
policymakers be sure that if two people both rate their happiness as a
four are equally happy or less happy than someone who rated their
happiness as a five? These questions confound measurements of
happiness, because quantifying what is a subjective opinion is an
uncertain process.
3. Policy implementation. The implementation of happiness data to make
policy choices would be filled with problems. For example, would
society wish to maximize total happiness or equalize it among
individuals? Answering this question may lead to greater happiness for
some but less for others. For this reason, researchers and policymakers
should proceed with caution when using such measures.
To measure how policies affect social welfare, economists have traditionally
operated in two steps. First, they look at how policies affect behaviour. Then
after using these predictions, they connect policies to welfare through some
theoretical models. A common problem with this approach is that, even if
agreement exists on how a policy affects behaviour, there is often a lack of
consensus on how the consequences of policy will affect welfare.
For example, where happiness data can help in evaluating policy involves
changes in unemployment benefits. Some evidence suggests that the
unemployment rate should decrease when unemployment benefits fall.
However, researchers are not sure what will happen to welfare. There are
some conflicting elements within each group. Those who were unemployed
but end up taking jobs as a result of the lower benefits may become better
off. However, the overall effect on welfare within the unemployed is
ambiguous because those that remain unemployed have their welfare
reduced by the cut in benefits, but also have their welfare increased
because the average duration of their unemployment declines. Similarly the
existing group of employed workers face different consequences: they gain if
lower benefits lead to lower taxes and a reduced fear of losing their job, but
their welfare may drop because the risk of becoming unemployed with a
lower level of unemployment benefits now will involve a higher personal cost.
The effect of all these consequences is hard to estimate. A policymaker could
compare the effects on happiness for workers of losing their safety net with
the gains from lower unemployment rates.97
This example proves that policy making can have a different influence on the
variety of groups. For one group happiness increases, and for the other group
happiness decreases.
Report: Some Uses of Happiness Data in Economics by Rafael Di Tella and Robert
Using happiness data for policymaking in practice
The strengths and weaknesses of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index of
Bhutan revolve around the improvement of happiness in areas surrounding
health, education, environmental preservation, and good governance.
Health is one of the nine domains of the GNH where improvements have
been made overall. Success in creating abundance in health care access
has improved in rural areas especially. The government has placed clinics in
various rural areas due to data collected that showed the health indicator
not being met. Overall the GNH reform around health has been beneficial.
Over 90% of the population now has some form of access to healthcare.
These improvements bring a greater happiness and security for the need of
health that can lead to improvements in mental health as well.
Improvements have extended to the education system where the
government has assessed how to improve GNH through educational
programs and traditional learning environments. Creating an easily accessible
schooling system improves the GNH by creating a knowledgeable generation
that is the future of Bhutan. Some areas of improvement have shown in
general mental health of students.
Educating the public has also proven beneficial within policies revolving
around environmental preservation. The GNH, as well as Bhutanese culture,
revolve around environmental preservation creating clean sources of drinking
water, clean air, and ecological diversity to promote sustainability and
The government is bound to the measures of GNH to create abundance in
happiness for its people. Government policies are assessed in the GNH by the
people to help develop ideas how the government can improve. This type of
active participation helps policy reform ensue where it is needed. The
Bhutanese government can improve GNH in any of the nine domains. A
secure government can lead to a happy society in which one's government
adheres to the general needs of the people through a communal effort to
resolve issues in creating happiness.
“Those who feel good, do good”.98
How will happiness be measured in the future and which
factors will play an important role?
The Ten Commandments of Happiness
Do you want a happier life?99
According to social psychologist Professor David G. Myers we need to make
ten commandments with ourselves to become a happier person. He has
written several articles and books, including “The Pursuit of Happiness: Who is
Happy and Why”. The ten commandments mentioned below are a summary
of the ideas in this book.
You must realise that enduring happiness does not come from success.
People adapt to changing circumstances, even to wealth or disability.
Having success or money does not guarantee happiness.
Give priority to close relationships. It’s important to intimate friendships with
those who deeply care about you, and those who help you in difficult times.
Do not take your loved ones for granted, by playing together and sharing
Seek work and leisure that engage your skills. Satisfied people are often
absorbed in tasks that challenge but do not overwhelm them. The most
expensive forms of leisure often provide less satisfaction than for example
gardening, socialising or craftwork.
Take control of your time. Happy people feel in control of their lives. To control
your use of time, set goals and break them down into daily aims. Although we
often overestimate how much we can accomplish in one day, we generally
underestimate how much we can accomplish in a year, given just a little
progress every day.
Act happy and satisfied. Sometimes we can act ourselves into a happier
frame of mind. When having a smiling expressing, people feel better. So put
on a happy face. Try to think and feel positive, be optimistic, and outgoing.
Join the ‘movement’ movement. Research reveals that aerobic exercise can
relieve mild depression and anxiety, and at the same time promotes health
and energy.
Quote from David G. Myers from The World Book of Happiness
Ten commandments written by David G. Myers in The World Book of Happiness
Give your body enough sleep. Many people suffer from a sleep debt, with
resulting fatigue. Happy people live active lives yet reserve time for sleep.
Focus beyond yourself. Help the people in need. Happiness increases
helpfulness (those who feel good, do good).
Nurture your spiritual self. For many people faith provides a support
community, a reason to focus beyond ourselves, and a sense of purpose and
hope. Study shows that religious people are happier, and that they can cope
better with crises.
Keep a gratitude journal. Those who reflect on some positive aspects of their
live will experience heightened well-being.
We think these ten commandments can really influence our happiness. We
believe that we need to work everyday on becoming the happiest and most
satisfied person we can be. By following these ten important steps it might
become easier to enjoy life.
Which factors will play a role in the future?
The factors, to achieve happiness, that have been important for the last
decades will still be important in the future. Up to 50% of our happiness is
explained by our genes. 40% of our chances on happiness lie within our
decisions. Our behaviour determines a great deal of our happiness. The other
10% is explained by external effects such as money, relationships, and health.
We think that these factors will probably not change very much in the near
future, because first of all we think that the 50% explained by our genes will
not change. The other 40% may probably change in the future, because
these kinds of changes take a long time. But we do think that if we want to
decrease our happiness we need to improve our behaviour and decisionmaking.100
A challenge for the future
When we take a look at progress in societies we can see that for fifty years we
have aimed at higher incomes and got them. But over the same period of
time, there has been no increase in happiness in several countries. Lately
there has been a rise in the number of unhappy people. We need to change
our priorities in order to become a happy society.
When we look at what causes differences in happiness between individuals
and societies, than we can look at seven main factors: income, relationships
at home, relationships at work, relationships in the community, health,
personal values, and personal freedom. Income is one of the most important
The percentages are explained in subquestion 2.
factors. But if people get richer they do not become happier. The factor
which explains the variation in happiness the best is the quality of personal
relationships (with family and friends).
It is really important for us to commit to a happier society, because it has
major implications both for our individual lives and for public policy. In our
private lives, we should take into account all those whose happiness we can
affect. We call this harmony. It brings out the fact that everyone can gain,
including ourselves.
In order to have a happier state we need to change, because too much
regulation reduces happiness. We shall require a huge change in government
priorities in different sectors. Governments should actively promote happiness.
Schools should be more concerned with developing characters instead of
only focussing on imparting knowledge. Children and young adults must learn
how to regulate their emotions and behaviour. They also should learn to care
for others. School should acquire these life skills based on norms and values.
Recent research also shows how important positivity is for young people.
Teacher should try to focus even more on what students should do, rather
than what students should not do. Eventually it will reduce drugs, overeating,
smoking, and drunkenness.
Health, and especially mental health, is very important for happiness. In some
countries, for example in Britain, mental illness accounts for nearly half of all
disability. In the Netherlands 9,9% has a mental disability. Also the effect of
depression on ordinary life is 50% higher than the effect of common chronic
physical illnesses. All over the world we can see that more and more children
and adults could be diagnosed as suffering from depression, or from an
anxiety. Mental illness should be taken as seriously as physical illness.
Employment is very important, because people need to make a living for their
family. Providing employment for everyone is more important than it is to raise
the long-term rate of economic growth. When young people graduate from
school they need to fill needed in the society, because it offers them
meaningful job opportunities.
We all want a community where everyone is equal and in which people have
confidence in the good will of the other citizens. Research has shown that
communities with more equality are less violent and have a higher trust
among the citizens.
To be able to be happy we should also think about our environment. We do
not want a world beset by droughts and floods. We aim for a world with a
harmonious relationship between man and the planet.
In the end, governments will only take happiness seriously if they also measure
happiness. At a recent OECD Conference on “What is progress?”, Joseph
Stiglitz said: “If you measure the wrong thing, you will do the wrong thing.”
And that is totally right. Nationals and local governments need to make
regular surveys of the happiness of their citizens in order to measure trends
and to have information so that we can understand the cause of happiness.
Also social science should become an important part of studying what
determines happiness.
Until today there are to many people suffering unnecessary. That is why we
should move forward and change so that there is less misery and more
happiness among people. 101
The future of happiness research
For many years psychologists and economist have been asking themselves,
“Who is happy? The rich, the poor, the young or the old? As mentioned
before, the best way to find out is to survey people once or maybe twice and
try to determine which group of people is happier. The tools, which have
been used, were pretty blunt instruments. The last years there are things
possible that have not been possible before, such as collecting data in real
time from huge numbers of people.
Matt Killingsworth has built an experience-sampling application called Track
Your Happiness. With this application he is able to follow more that 15,000
people by smartphone, querying them several times a day about their
activities and emotional states. With this technology, Matt is able to answer a
question, which we want to know for years now. Instead of being able to ask
who is happy, he can now ask the question when they are happy. Matt gets
the answer by tracking people and measuring what they do and how happy
they are while they are doing it. This works much better than asking people,
“When are you happy?”, because people do not know when they are most
happy. 102
In the future, we need to get more specific about what we are measuring
and what we want to measure. Many scientists say that they are measuring
and studying happiness, but if you look at the data they are collecting, you
will see that they are actually studying depression or life satisfaction and not
happiness. Of course, depression and life satisfaction are closely related to
happiness, but it is not the same.
Some other researchers believe that some very powerful technologies will be
developed during the coming decades, such as advanced biotechnology,
nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. These bring unmatched
opportunities for increasing global happiness. Biotechnology can be used to
improve human health and welfare as well as for enhancing our emotional
capacities. Nanotechnology can help us solve problems, cure diseases and
The World Happiness Report and The World Book of Happiness
Research by Matthew Killingsworth, The Future Happiness Research
reduce poverty. The Future Happiness Unit tries to draw attention to,
investigate and encourage the use of these opportunities. 103
The Future Happiness Unit
What is the impact of the use of happiness meters on the
After answering all of our sub-questions we can now look at the main
question. Do the happiness meters have an impact on the society and if so
how big is that impact?
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being. There are two types of
happiness. The first is the expression of positive emotions and the second is
having the sense of satisfaction. In our body a lot of things happen when we
experience a positive emotion.
The ultimate quest for happiness has always been important for the human
species. Though we could take it more serious than we do now.
The three factors that affect happiness are genes, intentional activity and
external factors. Whether we have the possibility of becoming happy is in the
hands of your parents for up to 50%. External factors are not as important as
we might think!
Measuring happiness in the society can be done in various ways. Often
surveys are used to measure happiness. Though also surveys differ in content.
It is up to the organization itself, to determine the content of the survey.
Common topics are community, income, housing, and relationships. Though
in the society of today, more surveys are becoming interested in the
Happiness meters turn out to be very effective ways of measuring the
happiness of the inhabitants of a country. The bigger the survey will be, the
more accurate the outcome.
By using for example surveys to measure people’s happiness we can achieve
great things. Not only for ourselves as individuals, but also for our society. The
data collected by these surveys can be used for policymaking in the future.
By using the data for policymaking we can increase our well-being and life
Every government uses different factors and indicators to measure happiness
under their citizens. These factors and indicators also place different weight
on it. Countries and researchers are using more and more subjective well
being measures to formulate better polies as well as to measure the success
of those policies.
Using all this happiness data has a great impact on our society. Our society is
changing, because we are trying to achieve greater happiness and greater
well-being. To be able to actively promote happiness, the government needs
to change priorities, as said before in subquestion 6. Some sectors will see
some of these priority changes. Schools should be more concerned with
developing characters instead of only focussing on imparting knowledge.
Children should be learned how to control their emotions and behaviour. Also
health, especially mental health, is very important for our happiness. This
means mental health care should become a priority. Employment ensures
greater happiness as well. There are many more sectors, which need some
attention to increase happiness.
If happiness meters would be used to measure the well-being of a country, life
would be a lot different. In the society of today lots of emphasis has been put
on the economy of a country. Happiness meters would shift the attention
from the economy to the society. Does the society work properly? And what
are ways to improve the happiness within your country?
The impact that the use of happiness meters will have on our society can be
fairly positive. Especially when you look at the social developments.
Healthcare, environment and emotions will become more and more
important. Well-being will become better.
We believe that these meters will keep us from focusing on the price tag.
Money is not the most important thing in life. If you live in a country with a
flourishing economy, this does most certainly not mean that you are happy.
This is what the modern gross national product lacks. The possibility to look
further than a price tag.
We think that if we would use happiness meters instead of the gross national
product we would have a totally different outlook on life. An outlook that is
not less or more than the current method we are using but just different. The
government, companies and other leading associations would have to
change their attitude towards happiness. On the one hand this might lead to
a stagnation of our economic developments on the international market,
because instead of putting money into developments it is spend on making
inhabitants in your own country happy. On the other hand happy people
tend to spend money more easily (for example on parties of presents).
We think that it would be good to give more attention to the use of happiness
meters in our society. It would teach us that life does not only revolve around
money and making the biggest profits. Happiness has also got a certain value
even though it does not have to cost us money. We should not forget that the
best things in life are for free.
Happiness Survey
We are doing research on happiness and the influence of happiness on the society.
We would like to know how happy people feel in different countries in Europe.
Hopefully you want to help us by filling in this questionnaire.
Thanks in advance!
Charlene van Herwaarden and Elyse van Rijsbergen, from the Netherlands.
1 = Strongly Disagree
2 = Moderately Disagree
3 = Slightly Disagree
4 = Slightly Agree
5 = Moderately Agree
6 = Strongly Agree
I do not feel particularly pleased with the way I am
I feel that life is very rewarding
I am not particularly optimistic about the future
I find most things amusing
Life is good
I laugh a lot
I am well satisfied about everything in my life
I do not think I look attractive
I am very happy
I always have a cheerful effect on others
I can fit in everything I want to
I feel that I am not especially in control of my life
I feel able to take anything on
I often experience joy
I do not have a particular sense of meaning and purpose in my
I do not have fun with other people
I do not feel particularly healthy
I do not have particularly happy memories of the past
“Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy!”
Happiness Survey Results
Happiness is a main goal in modern society. Most individuals seek to live a
happy life and see much value in happiness. We, as people, try to achieve
greater happiness.
We put out this survey, because we were very curious how happy people are
around us and what would be the results of our survey. We have sent the
survey to some schools abroad, to Sweden, Austria, Germany and Finland.
We also uploaded our survey on Facebook. And handed the survey out to
some classmates and colleagues of our parents.
In some graphs the percentages are not a total of 100%, this is because of the
rounding up some numbers.
Figure 10.1: “What is your sex?”, Survey question number 1.
The first question we asked in our survey was “What is your sex?”. We thought
it was important to know how many male and female answered our survey.
The total amount of male (49%) is almost equal to the amount of female (51%)
who have answered our survey.
Figure 10.2: “What is your nationality?”, Survey question number 2.
The second question we have asked in our survey was “What is your
nationality?”. Because we have sent our survey abroad we have got results
from different nationalities. All of those people have their own connection to
The Netherlands. In total we have measured eight different nationalities,
people from Austria, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, France, Germany,
Poland, Romania and Sweden. Because we have the most Dutch contacts
the survey has been answered by Dutch people for 66%.
Figure 10.3: “What is your age?”, Survey question number 3.
We also thought it was important to know what the age is of the people who
have answered our survey, so we asked the question “What is your age?”.
54% of the people who have answered our survey are between 0 and 10
years old. 19% of the people are between 21 and 35 years old. Only 12% of
the people are between 36 and 50 years old. The last group, 15% are
between the 51 and 65 years old. No one older than 65 years has answered
our survey.
Figure 10.4: “I do not feel particularly pleased with the way I am”, question number 4.
With the upcoming theses the people had to decide whether they agree or
disagree with the thesis. They could choose between: strongly agree,
moderately agree, slightly agree, slightly disagree, moderately disagree and
strongly disagree.
With this thesis we can see that the majority disagrees with the thesis. 78% of
the people disagree with the fact that they feel not pleased with the way
they are.
Figure 10.5: “I feel that life is very rewarding”, question number 5.
The majority (83%) agrees with the fact that they feel that life is very
rewarding. Only 17% disagrees, but only 2% strongly disagrees. So we can say
that most people think life is very rewarding.
Figure 10.6: “I am not particularly optimistic about the future”, question number 6.
The majority of 75% disagrees with the thesis. They do feel optimistic about the
future. Only 25% agrees with the thesis. Only 5% strongly agrees with the fact
that they are not optimistic about the future.
Figure 10.7: “I find most things amusing”, question number 7.
84% of the people find most things amusing, so the majority agrees with the
thesis. Only 17% disagrees. No one strongly disagrees with the thesis: I find
most things amusing.
Figure 10.8: “Life is good”, question number 8.
Almost everyone agrees with this thesis, life is good. 7% slightly disagrees, but
no one moderately or strongly disagrees. So we can say that most people
think life is good.
Figure 10.9: “I laugh a lot”, question number 9.
The majority laughs a lot. 91% agrees with this thesis. Only 7% slightly disagrees.
While only 2% strongly disagree. We can say that most people laugh quite a
Figure 10.10: “I am well satisfied about everything in my life”, question number 10”
77% agrees with the thesis. The majority op the people is satisfied about
everything in their life. We can say that the people who disagree are not
always satisfied about things in their life.
Figure 10.11: “I do not think I look attractive”, question number 11.
Most people think they do look attractive, the majority of 74%. Still there is
quite a big percentage of 25% people who think they look not attractive. And
that should be changed.
Figure 10.12: “I am very happy”, question number 12.
The whole survey is actually about this thesis. We want to know how happy
people are. And luckily the majority (85%) agrees with the thesis, so they are
happy. Only 14% disagrees with the thesis.
Figure 10.13: “I always have a cheerful effect on others”, question number 13.
The majority of the people agrees with this thesis. 86% think that they have a
cheerful effect on other. Only 15% of the people disagree with the thesis.
Figure 10.14: “I can fit in everything I want to”, question number 14.
This thesis caused some questions. People found it difficult to understand what
was meant with “I can fit in everything I want to”. With this thesis we mean
how much you are able to adjust to some situations, how you can belong
and fit in something.
68% of the people agree with this thesis. But there is also a quite big group,
which slightly disagrees with the thesis, 15%. But still we can say that most
people agree on the fact that they can fit in everything they want to.
Figure 10.15: “I feel that I am not especially in control of my life”, question number 15.
The majority of the people disagree with this thesis with a percentage of 70%.
But there is also a large group that agrees with thesis. No one strongly
disagrees with the thesis. So we can say that most people feel that they are in
control of their own life.
Figure 10.16: “I feel able to take anything on”, question number 16.
We can see that most people are in the middle of the scale between strongly
agree and strongly disagree. Most people are between moderately agree
and slightly disagree. Still the majority does agree with the thesis, 71%. And
29% disagrees with the thesis.
Figure 10.17: “I often experience joy”, subquestion number 17.
90% agrees with this thesis, this is by far the largest group. Only 10% of the
people feel they do not experience joy very often. So we can say most
people often experience joy.
Figure 10.18: “I do not have fun with other people”, question number 18.
Also this thesis shows by far a majority (95%) in people who disagree with the
thesis. They all do have fun with other people. Only a small group of 5%
agrees with thesis, that means that they do not experience much fun with
other people.
Figure 10.19: “I do not feel particularly healthy”, question number 19.
79% of the people agree with this thesis. They do feel healthy. The other 21%
does not agree with the thesis. They do not feel particularly healthy in some
sort of way.
Figure 20.20: “I do not have particularly happy memories of the past”, question number 20.
The majority of the people (96%) disagree with the thesis. Only 6% of the
people disagree with the thesis. This means that those people do not have
happy memories of the past. Still 96% does have happy memories of the past.
Results all together
1 = Strongly agree
2 = Moderately agree
3 = Slightly agree
4 = Slightly disagree
5 = Moderately disagree
6 = Strongly disagree
I do not feel particularly pleased with the way I am
I feel that life is very rewarding
I am not particularly optimistic about the future
I find most things amusing
Life is good
I laugh a lot
I am well satisfied about everything in my life
I do not think I look attractive
I am very happy
I always have a cheerful effect on others
I can fit in everything I want to
I feel that I am not especially in control of my life
I feel able to take anything on
I often experience joy
I do not have fun with other people
I do not feel particularly healthy
I do not have particularly happy memories of the past
* Grey areas are positive.
If we look at the table we can analyze the overall happiness of the
population of a lot of Dutch people and a combination of European
countries we can see clear results. The grey areas are the positive answers to
the questions. Those areas represent a ‘happy’ or ‘content’ answers.
When we would compare the percentages in the grey area to the
percentages in the white area there is a difference. On each question the
‘positive’ answers outnumbers the ‘negative’ answers.
This means that the people in our surveyed group are overall quite happy.
They are content with their lives and feel overall content with their body.
The top three of things were people are most content with:
 I do not have fun with other people.
95% of the people did not agree with this statement. They do have fun
with other people.
 I do not have particularly happy with memories of the past.
94% of the surveyed people disagree with this statement. They think
back on their memories on a positive way. This means that the people
we surveyed, Dutch or foreign, have had a good youth.
Life is good.
93% of the people agree with this. This means that overall they think
that life is good. They feel quite good about their lives.
This survey taught us a lot about happiness. The group we chose was a group
of people with a Dutch nationality and other European nationalities that all
have their own connection to the Netherlands. We chose to survey this group
because we live in a globalized world. The Netherlands and other countries in
Europe are very much connected. Even within our own borderlines it is not
strange to come across foreign people. Last year we participated in an
exchange. During one of the many conversations we had, we talked about
happiness. What happiness mend to them and how that differs from
happiness to us. We found out that our ideas are not that different from
The survey pointed out that we in Europe are quite content. We are pleased
with our lives, the people around us and our appearances. It is interesting to
see that people are most content with the ones around them, their memories
and that their life is good.
We learnt that we as Europeans are happy, and have all the reasons to be
happy. Most of us feel good about the things we do. And we should be!
We Europeans are a happy group of people!
Logbook Elyse van Rijsbergen
6 hours
Plan of approach
+ brainstorming
about our topic.
Orientation topic +
Search for
information about
our topic.
Worldschool in Den
1 hour
1 hour
3 hours
1,5 hours
0,5 hour
1 hour
2 hours
2 hours
2 hours
3 hours
I selected all the
useful information
first to get
everything ready
to start.
Subquestion 4.
2 hours
Subquestion 4.
2 hours
Subquestion 4.
2 hours
2 hours
Subquestion 4.
Made graphs for
subquestion 4.
Started working on
subquestion 5 and
Thinking about
subquestions and
main question.
questions and
divide them.
Search for
subquestion 4.
Register at
Worldschool did not
run smoothly.
When we arrived we
were not on the list.
Though it was not a
problem, the day
was very informative.
A lot of information,
so it was quite difficult
to decide what I
could use and what
not. So I first collected
all useful information.
Read book: “The
World of
subquestion 4.
Subquestion 4.
2 hours
Subquestion 4.
2 hours
Subquestion 4.
1 hour
2 hours
Subquestion 4.
Gross National
Together with
Charlene look at
what we had been
doing so far. +
Subquestion 5 and
2 hours
Subquestion 5
1,5 hour
Subquestion 5
3 hours
2,5 hours
3 hours
Subquestion 4,
Subquestion 5 en 6
2 hours
Subquestion 5 en 6
4 hours
Subquestion 5 en 6
2 hours
Subquestion 5 en 6
2 hours
2 hours
Subquestion 5 en 6
Put survey results in
It was quite difficult to
find information and
good sources.
Filled all our question
in at
but we could not use
more than 10
questions. So did
everything for
nothing actually.
Eventually used a
different site, which
did work.
Difficult to find
sources, so it took a
long time.
I could not use the
graphs from the site
survio.com, so I had
to make them all by
my self. Was a lot of
work because we
also had handwritten
3 hours
2 hours
3 hours
3 hours
2 hours
3 hours
78 hours
Foreword +
Introduction +
Survey Results
Survey results
Adjustments on
subquestion 5 and
Adjustments on
subquestion 5 and
Put everything in
one document,
looked for spelling
mistakes or other
Logbook Charlene van Herwaarden
6 hours
1 hour
1 hour
3 hours
1,5 hours
0,5 hour
2 hours
3 hours
1 hours
2 hours
2 hours
3 hours
4 hours
4 hours
2 hours
Plan of approach
+ brainstorming
about our topic
Orientation topic
and Worldschool
information about
our topic
Worldschool Den
Thinking about the
Search for
information about
subquestion one
Long-term/shortterm happiness
Research changes
of happiness
Has happiness
changed through
the ages?
Are we ever really
meetingwith Elyse
and thinking about
ideas for
subquestion two
What happens
when we feel
Finishing touch
subquestion one
To register at the
Worldschool did not
run smoothly.
When we walked in
we were not on the
list. Though that was
not a problem, the
day was very
There was too much
information available.
Everything was
interesting, but we
had to draw a line
what to say and
what not to say.
We had forgotten to
place notes at the
bottem of the page.
So I had to search
the right site with the
right quote.
2 hours
4 hours
5 hours
7 hours
2 hours
3 hours
2 hours
2 hours
2 hours
2 hours
5 hours
3 hours
4 hours
79 hours
Subquestion two –
Subquestion 2 –
intentional activity
Subquestion two –
external effects
subquetion two +
start with
subquestion three
Searching for
information about
subquestion three
Subquestion three,
dealing with the
Subquestion three
– Happy Planet
Subquestion three
– filling out indexes
+ writing the
Answer main
There are a lot of
external effects. So
again we had to
made a clear division
of topics that we
wanted to discuss
What is the most
important information
that we can use to
asnwer the main
Adjustments to
Adjustments to
Finishing the survey
+ conclusion main
Finishing touch
Subquestion 1
Subquestion 2
Subquestion 3
Subquestion 4
The World Happiness Report 2013
The World Book of Happiness by Leo Bormans
Happiness & Hardship by Carol Graham and Stefano Pettinato
Report: Happiness, Economics and Public Policy
Article: The World’s Happiest (And Saddest) Countries, 2013
Article: Bhutan: The Happiest Country in the World
Ted Talk about Happiness
Subquestion 5
The World Happiness Report 2013
The World Book of Happiness by Leo Bormans
Happiness & Hardship by Carol Graham and Stefano Pettinato
Report: Happiness, Economics and Public Policy
Subquestion 6
The World Happiness Report 2013
Happiness & Hardship by Carol Graham and Stefano Pettinato
Report: Happiness, Economics and Public Policy
The World Book of Happiness by Leo Bormans

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