World Database of Happiness

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The World Database of Happiness [1] is a web-based archive of research findings on subjective appreciation of life. The database contains both an overview of scientific publications on happiness and a digest of research findings.[2] The database contains information on how happy people are in a wide range of circumstances and in 165 different nations.[3] Happiness is defined as the degree to which an individual judges the quality of his or her life as a whole favorably. Two 'components' of happiness are distinguished: hedonic level of affect (the degree to which pleasant affect dominates) and contentment (perceived realization of wants).


The World Database of Happiness is a tool to acquire an overview on the ever-growing stream of research findings on happiness. The accumulation of knowledge stagnates if scientists do not capitalize on earlier research investments.[4] Medio 2013 the database covered some 19,000 scientific findings on happiness, of which about 6000 are distributional findings (on how happy people are) and another 13,000 correlational findings (on what is associated with more and less happiness).[5] The first findings date from 1915.

Popular use[edit]

The World Database of Happiness is often used by popular media to make lists of the happiest countries around the globe.[6] An example is the Happy Planet Index, which aims to chart sustainable happiness all over the world by combining data on longevity, happiness and the size of the ecological footprint of citizens.[7]

Strengths and weaknesses[edit]

The database has a clear conceptual focus, it includes only research findings on subjective enjoyment of one’s life as a whole. Thereby it evades the Babel that has haunted the study of happiness for ages. The other side of that coin is that much interesting research is left out. The findings are reported with technical details about measurement and statistical analysis. This detail is welcomed by scholars, but makes the information difficult to digest for lay-persons. Still another limitation is that the available findings are often contradictory, which makes it hard to draw firm conclusions about the causes of happiness. What is clear is that poor health, separation, unemployment and lack of social contact are all strongly negatively associated with unhappiness.[8] Another problem for the World database of happiness is that the number of studies on happiness increases with such a high rate that it gets increasingly difficult to offer a complete overview of all research findings.


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  2. ^ Veenhoven, R. (2004) World database of happiness; Continuous register of research on subjective appreciation of life. Published in: Glatzer, W., VonBelow, S. & Stoffregen, M. (eds.), ‘Challenges for quality of life in the contemporary world: Advances in quality-of-life studies, theory and research’, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht The Netherlands, Social Indicators Research Series, vol. 24, ISBN 1-4020-2890-3 (e-book 1-4020-2903-9).
  3. ^ Veenhoven, R. (2011) World database of happiness; Example of a focused ‘Findings Archive’. Published as Working paper No. 169, German Data Forum RatSWD, February 2011.
  4. ^ Veenhoven, R. (2009) World database of happiness. Psychological Topics, 18: 221-246.
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  8. ^ Dolan, P., Peasgood, T. & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 94-122.

External links[edit]