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FAQs about searching in this World Database of Happiness

How to search

Your can search in this database in two ways.

  1. One, you can search in the collections using the search options in the header of this screen. This allows detailed selections of the available information on happiness.
    • A search yields a selection of ‘pages’ that describe either a publication on happiness, a measure of happiness or a research finding.
    • This selection is presented in a table at the bottom of your search screen.
    • You can sort in the columns of the table, by clicking the arrows in the top row
    • Links to the selected ‘pages’ are at the right of each row in this table. Pages are used to present the information you are looking for.
    • Pages can be saved or printed. Pages have a unique internet address to which you can provide a link in your publications.
    • You can save a selection you made using the save-icon at the bottom right of the search screen, as you can see here
  2. You can also use the reports. These are easy to overview presentations taken from different collections, which you can print and cite.


What to search

Here are some question you may have


Concept of happiness

  • What ‘happiness’ is addressed in this database?
    The subjective enjoyment of one’s life as a whole. See chapter 2 of the Introductory text to the Bibliography of Happiness: Concept of Happiness.


Measurement of happiness

  • Where do I find an overview of measures of happiness?
    Go to the collection Measures of Happiness or take a view on some examples of happiness measures. For a complete view, browse the classification of measures on the search screen.

  • How do I see which of these items are the most commonly used?
    At the bottom of the search screen a table appears, which lists all acceptable measures of happiness, currently more that 2000! In the header of that table at the right are arrows with which you can sort on the number of studies in which the measures are used.

  • Which measures of happiness have been used in earlier studies in a particular country, e.g. Albania?
    On the search screen of the collection Measures of Happiness, you can select on nation in which measures of happiness have been used
    Another way is to use the findings report on Albania. Go to Nation reports. A list of nations will appear on which you find Albania. Click that link and a page opens on which you see a link ‘Distributional findings in the general population and an overview appears of all the measures of happiness ever used in general population surveys in that country. The measures are ordered by focus. Links bring you to the full text of survey questions and to the observed responses.
    If the country you look for is not on the list (e.g. North Korea), that means that happiness has not yet been assessed in that country, at least not with acceptable measures of happiness in a representative sample of the national population. Note that this does not inform you about measures used in studies other than general population surveys, such as studies on regions or particular groups in a country.

  • Which measures of happiness have been used in earlier studies among particular people, e.g. mental patients?
    On the search screen of the collection Measures of Happiness you can select on kinds of people.
    You can also use the findings report on Happiness in Publics. In this report browse the classification of publics. You will find mental patients under ‘Health’. If you click on that code, a list of studies will appear. In that list are links to both the measures of happiness used and the findings obtained with these measures.


Level of happiness

  • I want to know how happy people are in a particular country, e.g. Albania
    Go the search screen of the collection Distributional Findings, and enter the name of the country in the search box ‘nation/region’. You will than get a list of all the studies that have ever assessed the degree of happiness in that country. If you also tick the box ‘general public’, the studies in special publics will be left out. You can open each of the selected findings by clicking on the page icon at the right.
    Another way to the same information is looking in the ‘finding report’ of that nation. Go to the menu item Reports, select Finding reports on Happiness in Nations and next Single nation reports. An alphabetic list of nations will appear from which you can select Albania. You will get an overview of all the studies ever done in Albania that involved acceptable measures of happiness. In that report you will see a link to Distributional findings in the general public of Albania Click that link and a list of survey questions will appear. The questions are ordered by focus and within focus category by year. Next to each survey question you see the mean score on it and the standard deviation. Links under the measure code bring you to the full text of survey questions. If you click on the ‘i’ icon in the left of each finding, you get more information about the design of the investigation and about the observed distribution of the responses. If the country you look for is not on the list (e.g. North Korea) that means that happiness has not yet been assessed in that country, at least not with acceptable measures of happiness in a representative sample of the national population.
    All the literature on happiness in nations is recorded in the Bibliography of Happiness, section PREVALENCE OF HAPPINESS. Literature on determinants of average happiness in nations is gathered in the Bibliography, subject section CORRELATES OF HAPPINESS >> Situational >>societal >> national

  • I want to know how happy people are in a particular country compared to other countries. Where do a find a rank list?
    Go to the menu item Reports, select Finding reports on Happiness in Nations, next Rank reports and then rank of Level/mean. A table of average happiness by nation will appear, which you can sort alphabetically and on level of happiness. This report limits to nations in which well comparable measures of happiness have been used.

  • I want to know how happy some kinds of people are, e.g. elderly persons. How do I get to the available knowledge?
    In the collection of Distributional Findings search screen you can search on findings by people studied. Above in that screen select special public and a classification will appear in the search field at the right. Browse the classification of publics and you will find elderly persons under AGE groups. If you click on elderly, a list of studies will appear.

  • I want to know why some people are happier than others. Where should I look?
    See below under under Correlates of Happiness


Inequality of happiness

  • I am more interested in differences in happiness than in the average level of it. Where do I find information on that matter?
    Inequality of happiness in a population can be measured using the standard deviation of happiness in a sample from that population. See: Kalmijn & Veenhoven:  Measuring Inequality of Happiness in Nations. If reported, standard deviations are included in the finding pages on average happiness mentioned above. A selection of comparable findings on inequality if happiness in nations is found in the Rank Report Inequality of Happiness in Nations.


Correlates of happiness

  • I want to know what kind of people tend to be happiest, e.g. whether long people are happier than short ones
    This information is available in the collection of  Correlational Findings in the subject category ‘Height’. You can find that subcategory in two ways: The first way is browsing the alphabetic classification. You will then come across the subject category ‘BODY’ and see that ‘Heigth’ is a sub-category. Secondly, you can enter a key word, such as ‘length’, ‘tall”or ‘short in the search window and get to subject category ‘Heigth’ right away.
    You can also check the classification of Happiness in Publics to see if there are any studies exclusively among long people.
  • I want to know in what kind of countries people tend to be happiest, e.g. whether average happiness is higher in welfare states
    This information is also available in Correlational Findings specifically in the section ‘NATION: ECONOMY, where you will find the string ‘Socio-economic regime’ >> Public goods in nation >> Social security in nation. You can also find that subject category by entering the key word ‘welfare’ in the search window.
    You can also analyze this relationship yourself using the latest data available in the  States of nations data set. Browsing the topic list you will see that this collection involves comparative data about state welfare in nations. Since the data set also contains comparable data on happiness in these nations, you can analyze the statistical relationship using the SPSS data set which is available on request.


Change of happiness over time

  • I want to know whether life is getting better in modern society, e.g. are Americans happier now than 50 years ago?
    In the collection Distributional Findings in Nations you can search findings by nation and when you select a nation you get an overview of all happiness surveys ever held in that country ordered by question type and within question type by year. That ordering by year allows a look at change over time. In most cases the time series are too short to allow an overview fthe long term trend and for that reason the best comparable time series are presented separately in ‘Finding Reports’ on Time trends. You will find information on the development of average happiness in the USA since 1946 in the Trend Report on Level (mean) of happiness in nations.

  • I want to know how happiness changes over a life time, e.g. whether happiness declines in old age
    One way to address this question is to make cross-sectional comparisons of happiness across age-categories. Findings on this can be found in Correlational Findings, subject category AGE, in particular the subcategory ‘Stage of Life’. The other way to address this question is to follow the same people over time and assess their happiness repeatedly. This kind of data can be found in subject category HAPPINESS CAREER, in particular in the sub-category, ’Actual earlier/later happiness’ as assessed in follow-up.

  • I want to know to what extent happiness depends on things that change in your life, e.g. whether gaining weight will make you less happy
    This information is also found in Correlational Findings. As mentioned above, this collection is classified by subject and each subject category start with a sub-category named career, e.g. ‘income career’. A further sub-category in that section is change, e.g. ‘change income’. In the case of gaining weight look under subject category BODY >> Change in body.

    You can also look in the Bibliography of Happiness subject category MODES OF RESEARCH >> Methods >> Longitudinal studies and check whether any of these was about change in weight. On this list are more studies than those reported in Correlational Findings, partly studies that have not yet been entered in the findings collection and partly studies that do not qualify because the measure of happiness used does not fit the criteria for inclusion.

  • I want to know whether conditions for happiness change over time: e.g. is the relation between happiness and income still as strong as it was 50 years ago?
    You can answer such questions using the Correlational Findings. In this case focus on the current section of subject categories, e.g. on ‘Current income’ (code I1.2). Select well comparable studies performed at different times and assess whether the observed statistical relations differ systematically. If such meta-analyses have been carried out earlier, the results are also stored as a finding in this database. 


Difference in happiness across cultures

  • To what extent does the happiness of individuals depend on the culture in which they live, e.g. are people happier in cultures where Islam prevails?
    For a view on the available research results, go to  Correlations Findings and look in subject category NATION: CULTURE >> Religiousness.

    To find out yourself, go to Happiness in Nations and look at the level of happiness in nations of that kind, e.g. in Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. 
    For a more systematic analysis use the States of Nations database, under the topic Religion of which you find the variable ‘ReliMuslims_99’

  • I want to know whether conditions for happiness differ across cultures: e.g. is the relation between happiness and income stronger in the USA than in other western nations?
    You can answer such questions using the Correlational Findings. Focus on the current section of subject categories, e.g. on ‘Current income’. Select comparable studies performed in different nations in the same era and assess whether the observed statistical relations differ systematically. Note: the standard excerpts of findings are ordered alphabetically on name of nation and within nation on year
    Some of the studies in this collection of  Correlational Findings set out to compare the strength of correlations across countries and in the excerpts of such findings all the countries involved are mentioned. Such multi-nation cases are found in the top of lists of findings. Finding excerpts involving more than one nation are coded cross-national and can be selected in the MS-Access database behind this website.

    In some cases you need not go through the Correlational Findings yourself, since comparable statistics have already been gathered and entered in the  StatesofNations dataset under the topic  Correlates of Happiness. In this case you can use the variable HLbyIncome_90s, which involves the observed correlations between happiness and family income in 63 nations in the 1990s. Looking at the values in the SPSS file one can see that the correlation is indeed relatively high in the USA and crossing with other variables in this dataset one can also get a view of the societal characteristics behind.