FAQs about happiness

Is unhappiness the rule?

Most people appear to be happy in the present day world, in most countries the average score on a 0 to 10 scale is above 6 and in some western nations the average is around 8. However there are a lot of people who are unhappy, and the average in several African countries is below 4. An overview of average happiness in nations is available in the collection of Distributional Findings on Happiness in Nations.

Does happiness decline in a modern society?

No, happiness is on the rise. Not only has average happiness risen over the last 40 years, but due to rising longevity the number of happy life years has increased spectacularly. A recent paper is Long-term change of happiness in nations: Two times more rise than decline since the 1970s. More literature can be found in the Bibliography of Happiness, Subject PREVALENCE OF HAPPINESS >> Change in happiness over time. Data are found in the finding reports on Trends of happiness in nations and in the Collection of Correlational Findings on NATION: SOCIETY >> Current societal characteristics of nation >> Modernity of nation

Is happiness relative?

Comparison theory holds that happiness is relative, but this theory appears to be wrong. We do not assess how happy we are by comparing ourselves to the Jones and nor does happiness depend on meeting culturally variable standards of the good life. Happiness is more like health and being happy depends on how well we thrive. The literature on this subject is enumerated in the Bibliography of Happiness in the section on whether happiness can be promoted, specifically the subject PURSUIT of HAPPINESS. >> Can happiness be promoted? >> Is happiness not too relative?

Are we born happy or unhappy?

Happiness depends partly one’s genetic endowment, both on an aptness to feel good or bad and various traits that affect our ability to cope with the problems of life. It is difficult to estimate the size of the genetic factor, even in studies among identical twins. Estimates vary between 30 and 50%. One of the problems is that genetic variation appears to be more prominent when the variation in environmental conditions is small, which is typically the case in modern affluent societies. Follow-up studies in such societies show considerable variation in happiness over the life-time of an individual and responsiveness to major life-events such as marriage and widowhood. The mass unhappiness in some African nations, average below 4 on a 0 to 10 scale, illustrates the relevance of environmental conditions. Some societies are so miserable that even born optimists get depressed. The literature on this matter is rubricated in Bibliography of Happiness in the section DETERMINANTS OF HAPPINESS >> Further issues >> Heritability of happiness