World Database of Happiness, Introduction to Bibliography

Chapter 3

Studies on happiness were inventorized in the context of an attempt to take stock of the available empirical data on happiness for the purpose of meta-analysis . (See World Database of Happiness). This bibliography is a by-product of that inventarization. Studies on happiness were gathered in the following ways:

3.1 How titles were gathered

Abstract systems: Several international abstract systems were scanned: The Psychological Abstracts, The Sociological Abstracts, The International Dissertations Abstracts and the Educational Resources Information Center's abstract system. A broad range of key words were used in the searches. These key words are: adjustment (general, life, personal) affect (general, level), attitude (life), contentment, elation, evaluation (life), happiness, hedonic (affect, experience, level, mood), morale, satisfaction (emotional, general, life) and well-being (inner, psychological, general). Not only titles were screened, but also the full text of the abstracts and the index.

Libraries:  Catalogues of university libraries have been sifted through in several nations (Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, USA). The search concerned not only works that carry the word happiness or a synonym in the title, but also books in related fields. Promising books were called in and inspected. In the near future periodical computer searches are planned in national book catalogues in several countries.

Investigators On several occasions active investigators have been invited to mention reports on happiness. In the future the Directory of Investigators on Happiness will be used for periodical mailings for this purpose.

References: All the reports traced in these ways were called in and inspected for promising references.

3.2 Coverage

This procedure guarantees an almost exhaustive coverage of English language journal articles and dissertations. It is estimated that 80% of English language books and unpublished research reports have been traced. German and Dutch language publications are also fairly completely covered. However there is a serious lack of reports in French, Japanese and Spanish. Third world publications on this subject are probably scarce, but it is not unlikely that there are more than we found.

3.3 Number of studies found

Down through the ages the subject of happiness has been prominent in philosophy. Founding fathers of the modern social sciences promised to take over the torch. That promise has been redeemed with considerable delay.
As we have seen above, this bibliography focusses on social scientific studies. Table 1 shows that these studies were not very numerous in the first half of this century. Only in the 1970's do such studies start to take-off. After 1970 the numerical growth of studies on happiness is greater than that of the social sciences at large.

In june 1998 the bibliography involved 3007 titles. We expect to add some 150 titles per year in the next decade.

table 1
Studies on happiness by decade of publication.

before 1900                  16

1901 - 1910                  3

1911 - 1920                  5

1921 - 1930                  14

1931 - 1940                  23

1941 - 1950                  18

1951 - 1960                  58

1961 - 1970                  200

1971 - 1980                  811

1981 - 1990                  1336

1991 - 2000                  531   (incomplete)

undated                          7