Comparing happiness ?

Does it make sense to compare “happiness” across cultures? Or even across states?

Knowing that some indicators might be critical in certain societies and meaningless in others?

What attempts have been made at evaluating cross-cultural happiness / quality of life? Using what methodology?

2 Responses to Comparing happiness ?

  1. Julie says:

    Dr Elke De Buhr proposed an integrated index to measure happiness across different countries, based on:
    - Friedman’s division of quality of life into eight central domains
    - Available datasets relevant to each of these domains

    Her Index thus integrated:
    1) Government: Opportunity for free choice and participation
    - Political Rights Index
    - Women in government at all levels

    2) Health: Control of disease, functional ability and pain
    - Life expectancy at birth
    - Access to safe water

    3) Work: Opportunity to increase purchasing power and work satisfaction
    - Real GDP per capita
    - Percentage share of income or consumption: lowest 20%
    - Female economic activity rate

    4) Education: Opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills
    - Adult literacy rate
    - Secondary net enrollment ration

    5) Remote access: Opportunity for remote transportation and communication
    - Telephone main lines per 1,000 people
    - Internet hosts per 10,000 people

    6) Recreation: Opportunity to participate in games, hobbies, arts and entertainment
    - Television sets per 1,000 people
    - Daily newspapers per 1,000 people

    7) Protection: Control of crime and foreign incursion
    - Civil Liberties Index
    - Intentional homicides per 100,000 people

    8 ) Provision: Opportunity to acquire food, clothing and housing
    - Population below $1 a day
    - Child malnutrition
    - Per capita supply of protein

    See De Buhr, 2000

  2. Julie says:

    “What is also intriguing is how consistent and stable the happiness findings have been across cultures, between varied samples, and over time. Indeed, the findings on happy people have proven to be so consistent that the nature of happiness is far more stable, understandable, and basically universal than most have ever expected. Yet what is most remarkable of all, is the fact that these consistent findings have occurred despite any real consistency in measurement. Indeed, since practically every research group has chosen a new well-being instrument of its own design, what we have, essentially, is a situation of consistent results borne of inconsistent methods!”

    “…Apparently, no matter how you decided to ask people how happy they are, the results are the same.”

    Fordyce, Michael [1987] “A review of research on Happiness Measures: A sixty second index of happiness and mental health.” in Michalos, A. (ed.) Citation Classic from Social Indicators Research Springer, 2005. p. 393