Ruut Veenhoven

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Ruut Veenhoven (born 1942) is a Dutch sociologist and a pioneer on the scientific study of happiness,[1][2][3] in the sense of subjective enjoyment of life. His work on the social conditions for human happiness at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands has contributed to a renewed interest in happiness as an aim for public policy. He has shown that happiness can be used a reliable measure to assess progress in societies[4] which was one of the sources of inspiration for the United Nations to adopt happiness measures as a holistic approach to development.[5] Veenhoven is the founding director of the World Database of Happiness and a founding editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies.[6] He has been described as "the godfather of happiness studies",[7] and "a leading authority on worldwide levels of happiness from country to country",[8] whose work "earned him international acclaim".[9]


Veenhoven was born in The Hague in the Netherlands in 1942. He graduated in 1962 from the Nederlands Lyceum in The Hague and received a master's degree in sociology (specializing in public management) from Erasmus University in Rotterdam (1969). Subsequently, he completed a PhD in the Social Sciences also at Erasmus, with a dissertation on "The Condition of Happiness". He was also registered as a social-sexologist (1994–2000).[10] Between 1970 and 1990 Veenhoven was a leading advocate of abortion law reform and in promoting acceptance of voluntary childlessness in The Netherlands.[11]

Since 2001 he was a special professor at North-West University in South Africa. After his retirement in 2007 he joined the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (Ehero). Since 1985 he has been director of the World Database of Happiness at Erasmus University Rotterdam.[12] From 1995 until 2002 he was extraordinary professor of Humanism at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands (Piet Thoenes chair).[13] His contribution to the field of happiness studies was described in the Festschrift The Pope of Happiness.[14]

In 1984 Veenhoven earned his doctorate on the dissertation ‘Conditions of Happiness’ that synthesized the results of 245 empirical studies on happiness. On that basis he developed the World Database of Happiness,[15] which now covers some 40,000 research findings taken from 8,000 empirical investigations. Veenhoven is mentioned in the top 5% of authors in his field (December 2012).[16]


The International Society for Quality of Life Studies (ISQOLS) has awarded Veenhoven several times:

  • 1997: Research Fellow Award
  • 2000: Best Annual SIR Paper Award
  • 2001: Distinguished QOL Researcher Award
  • 2009: Best Annual JOHS Paper Award.[17]
  • 2012: Distinguished service award
  • 2021: Award for the betterment of the human condition (for The World Database of Happiness)

Research on happiness[edit]

His main research subject is happiness in the sense of subjective enjoyment of life. His main aim is to add to happiness for as much people as possible, by allowing individuals and organizations to make better informed decisions. Worldwide he is seen as a pioneer in that field.[18][19][20]

  • Main findings are:
    • Happiness is universal. All humans tend to assess how much they like the life they live and conditions for happiness are quite similar. Yet there is some cultural variation in beliefs about happiness. Happiness draws on gratification of universal needs, rather than on meeting culturally relative wants.[21]
    • Need gratification depends both on the livability of society and the life-ability of individuals.[22]
    • Greater happiness of a greater number is possible in contemporary societies and can be ‘engineered’, among other things in the following ways:[23]
      • Fostering freedom, so that people can choose the way of life that fits them best.[24][25][26]
      • Informing people about effects of major choices on the happiness of people like them. This requires large scale long-term follow-up studies comparable to research in nutrition.[27][28]
      • Investing in mental health, professionalization of life-coaching.[29][30]
    • Happiness signals that we are functioning well and for that reason happiness goes hand-in-hand with good health, both mental and physical. Happy people live longer.[31]
    • Being happy combines well with doing good. Happier people do better in relationships, do more voluntary work and are more interested in other people and their problems.[21]


  1. ^ Rojas, Mariano (2007-06-01). "Inspiring Economics". Journal of Happiness Studies. 8 (2): 293–98. doi:10.1007/s10902-007-9048-3. S2CID 147561805.
  2. ^ Chekola, Mark (2009-10-01). "An Entertaining Travelogue". Journal of Happiness Studies. 10 (5): 631–33. doi:10.1007/s10902-009-9136-7. S2CID 143216442.
  3. ^ Frisch, Michael. "Professor". The meaningful life project. Frisch, Michael B. (2008). The Oral History and Education Project of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies and the Gallup Institute for Global Well Being: A Way to Honor Distinguished Researchers and to Preserve their Legacies. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 2 (4), 223–38. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  4. ^ OECD, 2nd world forum. "Measuring and fostering the progress of societies". Measures of Gross National Happiness. oecd. Retrieved 2013-05-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Ban, Ki-moon. "Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development". Sixty-seventh session Agenda item 14. United Nations. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  6. ^ Anonymous, Anonymous. "University of Alberta". call for papers. University of Alberta. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  7. ^ Weiner, Eric, The geography of bliss: one grump's search for the happiest places in the world, pp. 20–33, p. 20 quoted, 2008, Random House, ISBN 0552775088, ISBN 978-0552775083, google books
  8. ^ 'Zuckerman, Phil, 'Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment, p. 7, 2008, NYU Press, ISBN 081479727X, ISBB 978-0814797273, google books
  9. ^ Robert Biswas-Diener, Ben Dean, Positive Psychology Coaching: Putting the Science of Happiness to Work for Your Clients, (e-book, no page numbers, section "A Scientific History of Happiness", 2010, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0470893087, ISBN 978-0470893081, google books
  10. ^ Deflem, Mathieu (2007). Sociologists in a global Age: Biographical Perspectives (PDF). Farnham: Ashgate. pp. 175–186. ISBN 978-0754670377.
  11. ^ Ruigrok, Paul. "Abortus". Andere tijden. VPRO Geschiedenis 24. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  12. ^ Den Boer, Bert (2006). Leef je Verlangen, Zestien Interviews (PDF). Soesterberg: ASPEKt. p. 32. ISBN 978-90-5911-314-5.
  13. ^ Volkskrant, Dutch Newspaper. "Persoonlijk". Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  14. ^ Michalos, Alex C. (2021). The Pope of Happiness: A Festschrift for Ruut Veenhoven. Cham: Springer. p. 324. ISBN 9783030537784.
  15. ^ Veenhoven, Ruut; Buijt, Ivonne; Burger, Martijn (May 2021). "ONLINE 'FINDINGS-ARCHIVE': A NEW TOOL FOR RESEARCH SYNTHESIS". International Journal of Innovation Scientific Research and Review. 04 (5): 2774–2784.
  16. ^ Ideas, RePEc. "Research Papers in Economics". Retrieved 2012-12-12.
  17. ^ "isqols, International Society for Quality of Life Studies". Awards. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  18. ^ Van Praag, Bernard (2007). Quantified: A Satisfaction Calculus Approach. p. vi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199226146.
  19. ^ Biswas-Diener, Robert (2010). Positive Psychology Coaching. p. 35: John Wiley & Sons. p. 272. ISBN 978-0470893081.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  20. ^ Oishi, Shigehiro (2012). The Psychological Wealth of Nations: Do Happy People Make a Happy Society. p 105: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1405192101.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  21. ^ a b Veenhoven, Ruut (February 1991). "Is happiness relative". Social Indicators Research. 24 (1): 1–34. doi:10.1007/bf00292648. hdl:1765/16148. S2CID 18774960. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  22. ^ Veenhoven, Ruut (March 2001). "The four qualities of life: Ordering concepts and measures of the good life". Journal of Happiness Studies. 1 (1): 1–39. doi:10.1023/A:1010072010360. S2CID 142090332. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  23. ^ Sheldon, Kennon M. (2011). Designing Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward'. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 396–409. ISBN 978-0-19-537358-5.
  24. ^ Berg, Maarten (2010). Geluk in Landen. Rotterdam: Erasmus University.
  25. ^ Ott, Jan (2012). An Eye on Happiness; Happiness as an additional goal for citizins and governments (PDF). Den Haag: Beta communications. ISBN 978-90-5335-589-3.
  26. ^ Brulé, Gaël; Veenhoven, Ruut (2014). "Freedom and happiness in nations: why the Finns are happier than the French". Psychology of Well-Being. 4 (1). doi:10.1186/s13612-014-0017-4. hdl:1765/77253. ISSN 2211-1522.
  27. ^ Bergsma, Ad (18 April 2008). "Smeed je eigen geluk". Volkskrant. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  28. ^ Bergsma, Ad (2001). Wat bezielt de psycholoog. Amsterdam: Nieuwezijds. pp. 230–236. ISBN 978-90-5712-110-4.
  29. ^ Bergsma A, Veenhoven R (2011). "The happiness of people with a mental disorder in modern society". Psychology of Well-Being: Theory, Research & Practice. 1 (2): 2. doi:10.1186/2211-1522-1-2.
  30. ^ Bergsma A, Ten Have M, Veenhoven R, De Graaf R (2011). "Happy life expectancy associated with various mental disorders" (PDF). Netherlands Journal of Psychology. 66 (1): 33–36. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  31. ^ Veenhoven, Ruut (May 2010). "Life is Getting Better: Societal Evolution and Fit with Human Nature". Social Indicators Research. 97 (1): 105–122. doi:10.1007/s11205-009-9556-0. PMC 2848343. PMID 20390030. Retrieved 16 April 2013.

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