This year marks the 10th anniversary of the World Happiness Report, which uses global survey data to report how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries worldwide. It has been an amazing journey of research and data collection, but, most of all, a journey of achieving a growing understanding of global human happiness.
Over the years, the report’s readership has increased, culminating with over 9 million people in 2021. Academic research on happiness has exploded and now involves authors from all over the world. The report has been widely cited, referenced, and used, but most importantly, the very message of the report has reached so many people willing to make a change in their communities and countries. It is known now that the true measure of progress is people’s happiness, that happiness can be measured, and the factors that cause it.
Now, with this accumulated knowledge, policy-makers are able to make people’s happiness the goal of their policies. With encouragement from the OECD, nearly all its member countries now measure the happiness of their people annually, while the European Union is actively asking its member countries to put well-being at the heart of their policy design.
As humanity advances, the prospects for happiness will depend on multiple factors, including the future course of the COVID-19 pandemic and the scale of military conflicts. But, an important contribution will come from improvements in the science of happiness. As part of the anniversary, the three major promising developments in the researcher’s ability to measure and explain happiness are also celebrated.
The first development refers to the ability of researchers to measure the happiness content of the printed text, be it in books or social media. This is done mechanically by counting the frequency of different types of words or by machine learning which also analyses content. These methods show that references to happiness have increased sharply over the last ten years. Meanwhile, references to income and GDP have fallen, and they have become less common than references to happiness. These are all encouraging long-term trends.
A second major area of progress concerns the relationship between biology and happiness. Researchers now have many ‘biomarkers’ of happiness. In addition, the genes people inherit provide important clues as to why some are happier than others.
The third area of advance is the range of emotions covered in happiness research. Happiness research in the West has tended to ignore important positive emotions which involve low arousal, such as calmness, peace, and harmony. Recent research shows how significant these emotions contribute to overall life satisfaction.
This anniversary is also an opportunity to observe how far happiness research has come, where it stands nowadays, and all the promising opportunities that lie ahead. As the science of happiness develops further, the World Happiness Report will continue to search for even deeper insights into the secrets of human happiness. We at World Happiness Foundation will certainly join them on this journey.
Keep Reading about the World Happiness Report 2022 findings. Happiness, Benevolence, and Trust During COVID-19 and Beyond