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Ways to Greater Happiness: A Delphi Study

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In the first round of this Delphi study 14 experts suggested strategies for improving life-satisfaction. In a second round, experts rated these strategies for (a) effectiveness, (b) feasibility and (c) cost-effectiveness. They considered 56 strategies policy makers can use to raise average happiness in a nation and 68 ways in which individuals can raise their own happiness. Experts were informed about the average ratings made by the panel and about the arguments advanced. Then, in a third round, experts made their final judgments. Summed ratings for average effectiveness and feasibility of the strategies ranged between 8.4 and 4.9 on scale 2–10, which means that most of the recommendations were deemed suitable. Agreement was slightly higher on policy strategies than on individual ways to greater happiness. Policy strategies deemed the most effective and feasible are: (1) investing in happiness research, (2) support of vulnerable people and (3) improving the social climate, in particular by promoting voluntary work and supporting non-profits. Individual strategies deemed most effective are: (a) investing in social networks, (b) doing meaningful things and (c) caring for one’s health.
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Journal of Happiness Studies (2020) 21:2789–2806
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00199-3
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RESEARCH PAPER
Ways toGreater Happiness: ADelphi Study
DanBuettner1· TobenNelson2· RuutVeenhoven3,4
Published online: 5 February 2020
© The Author(s) 2020
Abstract
In the first round of this Delphi study 14 experts suggested strategies for improving life-sat-
isfaction. In a second round, experts rated these strategies for (a) effectiveness, (b) feasibil-
ity and (c) cost-effectiveness. They considered 56 strategies policy makers can use to raise
average happiness in a nation and 68 ways in which individuals can raise their own hap-
piness. Experts were informed about the average ratings made by the panel and about the
arguments advanced. Then, in a third round, experts made their final judgments. Summed
ratings for average effectiveness and feasibility of the strategies ranged between 8.4 and
4.9 on scale 2–10, which means that most of the recommendations were deemed suitable.
Agreement was slightly higher on policy strategies than on individual ways to greater hap-
piness. Policy strategies deemed the most effective and feasible are: (1) investing in hap-
piness research, (2) support of vulnerable people and (3) improving the social climate, in
particular by promoting voluntary work and supporting non-profits. Individual strategies
deemed most effective are: (a) investing in social networks, (b) doing meaningful things
and (c) caring for one’s health.
Keywords Life-satisfaction· Research review· Policy advice· Utilitarianism
This study was commissioned by National Geographic Inc, Washington USA.
A more detailed report of this study is available at https ://www.eur.nl/en/ehero /publi catio ns/worki
ng-paper s/2017-01. From this site you can download: 1) A pdf version of this paper which involves
links from the text to rows in tables, 2)Excel files for the tables2 and 3 in which you can sort, 3)
Documentation about this Delphi study, and 4)A copy of the data set.
* Ruut Veenhoven
veenhoven@ese.eur.nl
1 Gallup, Washington, USA
2 Division ofEpidemiology andCommunity Health, University ofMinnesota, Minneapolis, USA
3 Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam,
TheNetherlands
4 Opentia Research Program, North-West University South Africa, Vanderbijlpark, SouthAfrica
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D.Buettner et al.
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1 Introduction
1.1 Call forGreater Happiness
All humans want a satisfying life for themselves and their children. This is seen in the high
ranking given to happiness in the value hierarchies of students all over the world (Diener
etal. 1995) and in the preferences of ordinary people in western nations (e.g. Adler etal.
Adler etal. 2015). Individually, people seek ways to achieve a more satisfying life and
this quest is manifests in the soaring sales of ‘how-to-be-happy’ books and in the ongoing
development of life-coaching businesses. Citizens in western societies call on their govern-
ments to improve the social conditions for happiness; for example, 85% of the British agree
with the statement that ‘A governments prime aim should be achieving the greatest happi-
ness of the people, not the greatest wealth’ (BBC 2006, question 14).
This call for greater happiness is not new, it has figured in western thought since antiq-
uity and became particularly salient in the eighteenth century European Enlightenment, a
spokesman of which was Jeremy Bentham, who declared that we should aim at ‘greater
happiness for a greater number’ (Bentham 1789). This call for greater happiness gains
strength these days, among other things because research has shown that greater happiness
is possible (Veenhoven 2015).
1.2 Happiness Research
Over the ages the subject of happiness has been a subject of philosophical speculation but
in the second half of the twentieth century it also became of subject of empirical research.
In the 1950s, happiness appeared as a side-topic in research on successful aging and men-
tal health. In the 1970s happiness became a main topic in social indicators research and
since 2000, it has become the main subject of the field of Happiness Economics. All this
research is gathered in the World Database of Happiness (Veenhoven 2017a, b, c) To date
(October 2017), this findings-archive covers the work of some 15,000 investigators, who
have produced about 30,000 research findings, both findings on how happy people are (dis-
tributional findings) and findings on things that go together with more or less happiness
(correlational findings).
The available research findings show that a high degree of happiness is possible. In
answer to a question on how much they like the life they live, many people tick the high-
est possible response option, such as ‘very happy’ and in Denmark the average score on a
numerical scale 0–10 is 8.4. Correlational findings give cues about conditions for happi-
ness, both with respect to the kind of society in which people life happiest and to differ-
ences in individual ways of life between more and less happy people.
1.3 Inference ofRecommendations
These data are typically gathered with the purpose of identifying ways to greater happi-
ness, both for policy makers and individuals. Yet deriving recommendations is not easy.
Correlations do not always denote causes and effects on happiness can differ across persons
and situations. Hence, reading the available research data requires specialized expertise.
Expertise is also required to judge the practical feasibility of strategies to raise happiness.
There is a growing literature on ways to greater happiness. Scientific publications on this
subject are listed in the Bibliography of Happiness (Veenhoven 2017c), which currently
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Ways toGreater Happiness: ADelphi Study
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holds 282 publications on policy implications of happiness research1 and 217 publications
on observed effects of individual level interventions,2 such as psychological trainings. The
scientific literature on what individuals themselves can do to get happier is much smaller,
though there is an abundance of popular self-help literature, in which references are made
to research findings.
1.4 Problems inGetting anOverview
The available literature on ways to greater happiness is difficult to oversee. Not only are
the writings too numerous to digest for an interested layperson, but any view is limited by
conceptual confusion and technical jargon. Even more problematic is that many of the rec-
ommendations are contradictory of others, or apply only in particular situations. Another
problem is that the derived recommendations are often not free from ideological bias.
Therefore, considerable expertise is required to make sense of the advisory literature on
ways to greater happiness.
One way to get an overview of the recommendations is to do a review study, that is, to
read all the available literature and consider the strengths and weakness of the various rec-
ommendations advanced, and propose a list of best ways to greater happiness. This takes a
lot of time, and typically results in a book, which is then added to the pile of existing advi-
sory literature. This approach is time-consuming and vulnerable to being skewed towards
the preferences of the reviewer. An alternative way to separate to grain from the chaff
among these many recommendations is to pick the brains of several experts and gather
theirs views. That approach is followed in this study.
1.5 Aim ofthis Study
We want to know what ways to greater happiness are recommended by the best-informed
people of our time, that is, experts in empirical happiness research. We want to know what
strategies they envision, how they rank these strategies for effectiveness and feasibility and
how much consensus there is among the experts.
2 Method
Expert-opinion was gathered using the Delphi-method. This involves structured consulta-
tion of a panel of specialists about a particular problem, typically involving several rounds,
in which experts express their views and consider each other’s opinions before making a
final judgment. The method has been used for forecasting future developments. Here, we
use it to understand the implications of present day happiness research.
1 Section ‘Policy implications’, direct link: https ://world datab aseof happi ness.eur.nl/hap_bib/src_pubs.
php?mode=1&Subje ct=187.
2 Section ‘Individual level interventions’, direct link: https ://world datab aseof happi ness.eur.nl/hap_bib/src_
pubs.php?mode=1&Subje ct=1714.
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D.Buettner et al.
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2.1 Experts
We invited senior scientists who have a strong record in empirical research on happiness,
defined in the sense of satisfaction with one’s life as-a-whole. We selected these experts
from the Directory of Happiness Investigators of the World Database of Happiness (Veen-
hoven 2017b) with an eye on the different strands that exist in this research field. Together
20 experts were invited, of which 15 agreed to participate, 10 of these completed all the
steps described below, 2 participated only in round 1 and 3 only in round two. Two of us
(Buettner and Veenhoven) also participated in the Delphi process. This resulted in the fol-
lowing list of participants in this study.
Dan Ariely, Duke University, USA
Mak Arvin, Trent University, Canada
Leonardo Becchetti, University of Roma Tor Vergata, Italy
Dan Buettner, Independent science writer and National Geographic, USA
Bob Cummins, Deakin University, Australia
Johannes Echstaedt, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Bruno Frey, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Carol Graham, Brookings Institute, USA
David Halpern, Behavioral Insights Team, UK
Bruce Headey, University of Melbourne, Australia
John Helliwell, University of British Columbia, Canada
Richard Layard, London School of Economics, UK
Richard Lucas, Michigan State University, USA
Sonja Lyubomirsky & Kristin Layous, University of California Riverside, USA
Ruut Veenhoven, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Heinz Welsch, University of Oldenburg, Germany
Dan Witters, Gallup, USA
2.2 Concept Life‑Satisfaction
We asked experts to focus on happiness in the sense of life-satisfaction; that is, the subjec-
tive enjoyment of one’s life as a whole. Thus, we avoided the conceptual confusion that
often haunts happiness advice. We reminded experts that the research literature on happi-
ness defined in this particular sense is gathered in the World Database of Happiness.
2.3 Questions
We asked these experts the following two fundamental questions:
A. What policies are most likely to yield greater happiness for a greater number of citizens
in nations?
B. What individual strategies are most likely to enhance people’s happiness in the long
run?
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Ways toGreater Happiness: ADelphi Study
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2.4 Procedure
The following 5-step procedure was followed:
1. We asked experts tosuggesttheir best ideasto address each of the two questions above:
what ways to follow and why.
2. We sorted the answers, eliminated redundancy and rephrased some of the suggestions.
3. We presented the resulting list of strategies to the experts, together with the justifications
provided in first round. We asked them torate each of the strategies for effectiveness,
cost-effectiveness and feasibility.
4. We then presented the list obtained in step 3, consisting of strategies and initial ratings,
to the experts and invited them to comment.
5. The experts then made their final rating. For this second rating, we limited to the 40
strategies on which experts had disagreed most in step 2. In this last round, the experts
were also asked to consider a set of specific individual behaviors that figure in popular
happiness advice. Rating of these latter strategies was optional.
2.5 Analysis
We counted the number of experts who had rated that recommendation for each of the pro-
posed ways to greater happiness. We next computed the mean ratings, on a 1–5 scale, for
(1) effectiveness of the strategy, (2) feasibility and (3) cost effectiveness. We also computed
the standard deviation of the ratings, to get a view on rated agreement. These numbers are
reported in Excel files, links to which are at the bottom of Tables2 and 3.
We then ranked all the strategies by the sum of effectiveness and feasibility.
All rankings were classified into 4 degrees, the means into 4 degrees of effectiveness
and feasibility, the standard deviation into 4 degrees of expert agreement. See Table1. We
used standard deviations from the mean as boundaries, top and bottom quarters respec-
tively above and below one standard deviation from the mean and the two middle catego-
ries within one standard-deviation above and below the mean.
Table 1 How the expert ratings were sorted
Ways to greater happinessRating by expertson scale 1-5
categorystrategyEffectiveness FeasibilityCost-effectiveness
MSDMSD
MS
D
Key to colors
Average rating by experts (Mean)Expert agreement (Standard Deviation)
Very good Good AverageLimitedHigh Medium high Medium lowLow
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D.Buettner et al.
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We will first discuss the general tendency in the ratings; which strategies are deemed
the most appropriate and which the least? In that analysis, we focused on the means. Then,
Table 2 Expert ratings of ways to greater happiness for a greater number of citizens (policy strategies)
Category StrategyNr. Sum mean
effectiveness
+
feasibility
Effectiveness
+
Feasibility
SD
Effectiveness
Mean
Effectiveness
SD
Feasibility
Mean
Feasibility
SD
Happiness Research Look for What Works for Whom 10c8.51.35 4.50.82 3.80.92
Social ClimatePromote Voluntary Work. Civil Service 8b 8.31.25 4.30.67 4.00.67
Happiness Research Assess How Much of the Above is Optimal 10b8.11.66 4.10.83 3.91.20
Personal SupportReduce Loneliness 6b 8.11.24 4.50.67 3.60.90
Happiness Research Monitor Happiness in Nations 10a8.11.56 4.01.04 4.10.67
Personal SupportFocus on the Least Happy 6e 7.81.06 4.40.51 3.30.89
FreedomCombat Discrimination 5c 7.51.08 4.50.71 3.00.94
Social ClimateIncrease Support for Non-Profits 8c 7.51.27 3.80.79 3.70.67
FreedomFoster Freedom to Choose 7ab7.51.51 3.80.98 3.60.84
EducationBring Life Skills to Schools7a 7.51.62 3.91.31 3.60.67
EducationInvest in Education 5a 7.41.17 4.20.79 3.21.03
Environment Support of Fairs and Festivals 3d 7.31.56 3.30.97 4.10.79
Health Encourage Healthy Living 8a 7.31.42 3.61.03 3.60.70
Social ClimateFacilitate Social Contacts 2d 7.31.60 3.80.87 3.50.90
Personal SupportSupport Families 7b 7.21.47 4.01.04 3.10.94
FreedomFoster Ability to Choose 4a 7.22.17 3.71.37 3.51.00
Governance Promote Good Government 6a 7.10.99 4.50.53 2.60.97
Economic Improve Work Conditions 1j 7.11.76 4.30.97 2.80.87
Health Prioritize Prevention 5d 7.01.49 3.80.98 3.10.99
Governance Empower and Involve Citizens 4d 7.01.70 3.90.94 3.00.94
EducationMaintain Order in Schools 2c 7.01.70 3.71.10 3.30.67
Governance Be Explicit About Greater Happiness 1f 7.02.41 3.11.51 3.91.14
Economic Provide Minimum Income Security 1e 6.91.24 4.20.94 2.80.87
Economic Reduce Unemployment 2a 6.90.83 3.90.90 3.00.77
Health Provide Free Healthcare 4b 6.91.14 4.50.52 2.51.21
EducationPromote Financial Education 5ca6.91.70 3.20.98 3.70.89
Health Promote Sports 2db6.81.11 3.30.75 3.60.79
Health Prioritize Mental Health Care 2b 6.71.56 3.90.94 2.81.17
Personal SupportSupport Happiness Education 6c 6.72.35 3.21.40 3.51.09
Economic Top-up’ Wages Program 5f 6.51.21 3.80.60 2.70.90
EducationMonitor Happiness in Schools 1ea6.52.70 3.21.40 3.41.43
Environment Invest in a Greener Environment 3e 6.51.43 3.40.97 3.10.74
Environment Limit Urban Sprawl 3b 6.41.43 3.70.95 2.70.82
EducationEducate Parents 5g 6.41.51 3.20.87 3.20.63
Economic Favor Economic Stability Over Growth 8d 6.31.06 3.90.32 2.40.97
Social ClimateIncrease Foreign Aid 1b 6.31.34 3.50.97 2.80.63
EducationFacilitate Internet Access 2dd6.31.01 2.50.52 3.70.65
Health Promote 8 Hours of Sleep 5h 6. 31.79 3.31.01 3.01.00
Environment Invest in Clean Air3c 6.21.14 3.70.95 2.50.53
EducationProvide Free Education 5b 6.21.14 3.70.48 2.51.08
Economic Favor Saving Over Consumption 1ha5.91.29 3.10.88 2.80.63
Health Promote Healthy Eating 2da5.82.08 2.71.07 3.21.19
Health Get People to the Dentist 2dc5.81.62 2.81.03 3.00.82
Personal SupportImprove Happiness Advise/Coaching 6d 5.82.30 2.71.23 3.11.16
Economic Support Home Ownership 1hb5.61.43 2.71.01 2.90.54
Economic Increase Taxes1d 5.61.44 3.31.14 2.30.65
ModernizationSupport Ongoing Societal Modernization9a 5.51.29 2.61.03 2.90.70
Economic Foster Economic Growth 1g 5.51.04 2.50.82 3.01.10
Economic Reduce Income Inequality1a 5.51.21 3.20.98 2.30.65
Economic Reduce Working Hours 1i 5.41.73 2.81.06 2.70.98
Economic CEO Tax to reduce Income Inequality4c 5.31.80 2.81.09 2.60.88
Governance Decentralize 5e 5.31.42 2.91.31 2.50.82
EducationFacilitate Study Elsewhere 1hc5.01.50 2. 10.93 2.90.78
Economic StimulateConsum ption of Stimulus Goods
Over Comfort Goods 3a 4.81.75 2.71.23 2.20.83
Environment Reduce Use of Cars 1c 4.71.37 2.50.90 2.20.83
Economic Counterbalance Global Capitalism6e 4.21.81 2.61.43 1.60.70
Mean 6.61.503.5 0.95 3.07 0.87
SD 0.96 0.38 0.64 0.25 0.54 0.19
Median 6.71.4 3.71.0 3.
00
.9
SD+ 7.54 1.88 4.13 1.20 3.62 1.06
SD- 5.61 1.11 2.85 0.69 2.53 0.68
An Excel file with more detail is available at: https ://www.eur.nl/en/ehero /publi catio ns/worki ng-paper
s/2017-01
Using this file, you can sort the ratings in different ways
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Ways toGreater Happiness: ADelphi Study
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Table 3 Expert rating of ways to greater happiness for a person can follow (individual strategies)
Category Strategy Nr. Sum of mean
effectiveness
+
feasibility
Effectiveness
+
Feasibility
SD
Effectiveness
Mean
Effectiveness
SD
Feasibility
Mean
Feasibility
SD
Social BondsInvest in Friends and Family 13c
9.01.25
4.70.47 4.20.92
Social BondsJoin a Club 13g
8.51.51
4.11.04 4.30.67
Life Style Be Active Both physically and mentally 18a
8.41.19
4.50.52 3.81.04
MeaningPractice Your Religion 19e
8.21.39
4.00.89 4.00.87
Health Self Care Get Physical Exercise 15b
8.01.63
4.10.94 3.71.06
Social BondsAct Nicely 13d
7.91.60
4.01.00 4.00.94
MeaningBe Generous 19c
7.91.37
4.20.87 3.81.03
Health Self Care Check Your Health 15d
7.91.17
3.80.87 3.80.67
Home Environment Experience Nature 14e
7.81.40
3.71.10 4.10.57
Work Socialize with Colleagues Outside of Work 12f
7.81.55
3.70.79 4.00.94
Social BondsFocus on the Happiness of Others 13f
7.81.87
4.20.98 3.61.07
Mental DevelopmentKeep Learning 16a
7.71.16
3.70.79 4.00.67
MeaningVolunteer 19d
7.71.57
4.30.65 3.41.17
Social BondsMarry 13a
7.71.42
4.20.98 3.41.26
MeaningDon’t Seek Happiness 19a
7.61.85
4.01.05 3.41.19
Life Style Set Goals 18b
7.61.13
4.10.54 3.40.73
Life Style Enjoy18c
7.61.13
4.00.63 3.60.73
Health Self Care Get Regular and Ample Sleep 15c
7.51.18
4.30.65 3.21.03
SA FinancialEnroll in Automatic Savings 20b
7.52.07
3.81.04 3.81.04
Positive OutlookAccept Yourself 17c
7.41.67
4.50.69 3.01.22
Mental DevelopmentSeek Challenges 16b
7.31.73
3.80.75 3.41.01
SA Home Environment Safe Surroundings 20n
7.31.38
4.00.71 3.01.15
Positive OutlookLaugh 17b
7.32.28
3.71.37 3.71.10
Health Self Care Invest in Good Health Insurance 15e
7.30.89
3.80.63 3.40.52
Life Style Find a Way of Life That Fits You 18d
7.31.67
4.11.04 2.91.13
MeaningSeek Purpose 19b
7.22.18
3.71.15 3.51.13
SA Positive Outlook Keep a Gratitude Journal 20q
7.11.29
3.31.01 3.90.57
SA Home Environment Optimize Your Bedroom for Sleep 20k
7.01.41
3.31.11 3.70.52
Work Avoid Long Commutes 12c
7.01.12
4.30.67 2.70.87
Financial Keep Out of Debt 11b
7.01.20
4.13.10.93
Work Seek a Job That Fits You 12a
7.01.56
0.78 2.71.06
Positive OutlookTrain to Have a Positive Outlook 17a
6.92.21
0.79 1.45 3.51.04
Mental DevelopmentKnow Your Strengths 16c
6.91.62
3.61.03 3.30.71
Financial Invest in Experiences 11d
6.81.56
3.31.06 3.70.82
Home Environment Opt for an Average House 14c
6.70.95
3.30.67 3.40.53
SA Positive OutlookWrite About Positive Experiences 20p
6.71.34
3.01.00 3.80.79
SA Social BondsAdd at Least One New Happy Person 20c
6.71.42
3.80.63 2.91.10
Home Environment Choose to Live Near Family 14a
6.61.00
3.80.75 2.80.39
SA Home Environment Grow a Garden 20i
6.61.90
3.40.73 3.01.15
SA Home Environment Live in an Environment of Trust20l
6.52.00
4.31.12 2.31.04
Mental DevelopmentDevelop Skills forHappiness16d
6.52.16
3.41.24 3.10.94
Financial Invest in Durables and Savings 11c
6.40.92
3.21.09 3.10.78
Work Limit Your Work Hours 12b
6.31.41
3.51.08 2.90.78
Social BondsUse/Learn Social Media 13e
6.31.41
2.40.92 3.90.93
Health Self CareEat Healthy 15a
6.31.68
2.91.08 3.30.79
SA Home Environment Own a Pet 20o
6.21.75
3.11.22 3.21.03
SA Life Style Develop Arts Appreciation 20s
6.12.19
3.11.05 3.11.21
SA Home Environment Create a Meditation Space 20f
6.11.45
3.31.12 2.81.09
Mental DevelopmentUse Professional Advice 16e
6.11.22
3.11.00 3.20.87
Life Style Monitor Your Happiness 18e
6.12.55
2.81.40 3.31.27
SA Meaning Write a Personal Mission Statement 20v
6.01.67
3.71.15 3.61.13
SA Meaning Create a Giving Account 20w 5.91.66 2.61.07 3.30.82
SA Home Environment Maximize Sunlight 20j
5.91.57
3.40.74 2.61.13
SA Social BondsCurate a Tight Social Circle (Moai) 20d
5.71.50
3.30.89 2.60.79
Social BondsHave children 13b
5.71.83
2.70.98 3.11.10
SA Life Style De-Clutter 20u
5.70.82
2.90.64 2.80.75
Home Environment Own Your House 14d
5.51.31
2.61.07 2.90.33
SA Home Environment Designate a "Flow" Room 20g 5.51.58 2.51.08 3.00.82
Home Environment Choose Live in a Suburb or a Small Town 14b
5.51.60
2.91.05 2.80.97
SA FinancialMinimize Credit Cards 20a
5.42.01
2.81.40 2.71.25
SA Home Environment Live in Quiet Surroundings 20m
5.40.98
3.10.83 2.40.53
SA Life Style Learn TheVal ue of Your Free Time 20r
5.42.07
3.01.12 2.60.98
SA Home Environment Eliminate Screens 20e
5.41.17
2.61.12 2.90.88
Financial Build wealth 11a
5.31.35
2.80.94 2.40.81
SA Home Environment Create a Pride Shrine 20h
5.30.89
2.10.99 3.40.52
Work Work Part-Time12e
5.11.60
2.60.81 2.51.08
Work Employ Yourself 12d
5.11.81
2.61.36 2.50.67
SA Life Style Become a Vegan 20t
3.91.35
1.50.93 2.30.71
Mean 6.71.5 3.50.953.3 0.90
SD 1.01 0.38 0.65 0.22 0.51 0.23
SD + 7.72 1.90 4.14 1.17 3.76 1.13
SD - 5.70 1.14 2.83 0.72 2.75 0.67
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we considered the differences in the ratings, to determine on which strategies the experts
agreed with most and which least, focusing on the standard deviations. Finally, we looked
at the divergence between the ratings of effectiveness and feasibility, to determine which
ways to greater happiness were deemed effective but not to be feasible and which feasible
but not effective. This analysis was done by comparing findings across rows in the tables.
2.6 Presentation
All rankings are presented in Tables2 and 3. The colors used in these tables are explained
in Table1.
Average ratings of effectiveness and feasibility are presented in shades of green, where
darker shades denote higher scores. Differences in these ratings among experts are pre-
sented in shades of red, where darker red denotes more disagreement.
Links at the bottom of these tables lead to excel files that contain more detail, which read-
ers can use to sort the ratings in different ways.
The numbers in the 3rd left columns of Tables2 and 3, link to a row in Appendix G of
the documentation, on which that particular strategy is described, as presented to the expert,
together with the rationales advanced in first and second round.
In the next sections of this paper, the reader will see statements in the text that referto a
row in the Tables2 or 3. Links can facilitate comparison of stated conclusions with observed
ratings. Linking to row in a table is standard in pdf, but does not work in the pdf version cur-
rently used for this journal, which allows only a link to the top of the table. A fully functional
pdf version is available online at: https ://www.eur.nl/en/ehero /publi catio ns/worki ng-paper
s/2017-01.
3 Results
We will now focus on the combined ratings for effectiveness and feasibility of the strate-
gies for greater happiness. We will not consider these matters separately. In this paper we
discuss cost-effectiveness only shortly, since the ratings for this point were very similar
to the general effectiveness ratings. We mark the main findings in in the Sects.3.1.4 and
3.2.4. More detailed information is available in extended presentations of the ratings, a link
to which is found at the bottom of the Tables2 and 3.
The highest possible rating for summed effectiveness and feasibility of a strategy was 10
(average score of 5 on both) and the lowest possible rating was 2 (average 1 on both). We
did not find any extreme scores, with summed ratings for effectiveness and feasibility rang-
ing from 8.4 to 4.2. This means that our experts were not overenthusiastic; however, with
an average score of 6.6, we can assume that most of the proposed ways to greater happiness
were deemed suitable.
Not all strategies were equally valued. Below we fist present the strategies deemed most
effective and feasible and next review the strategies deemed least effective and feasible. In
An Excel file with more detail is available at: https ://www.eur.nl/en/ehero /publi catio ns/worki ng-paper
s/2017-01
Using this file, you can sort the ratings in different ways
Table 3 (continued)
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our presentation, we follow a slightly different categorization than presented in the tables,
in order to present the same findings in another light.
3.1 What Do Experts Think thatPolicymakers Can Do toProduce Greater Happiness
foraGreater Number ofCitizens?
Together, the experts proposed 56 strategies for raising the level of happiness in a country.
Their ratings of these strategies are presented in Table2, both the average scores (M) of
effectiveness and feasibility and the differences in these rating (SD).
As announced in Sect.2.5, we will first consider the average ratings, focusing on the
sum of effectiveness and feasibility (M), then the differences in ratings across experts (SD)
and lastly the differences in ratings for effectiveness and feasibility.
3.1.1 Average Ratings forEectiveness andFeasibility
Which of the 56 proposed strategies were judged to be the most apt, which the least? To
answer this question, we need to focus on column 4 in Table2 where degrees of summed
effectiveness and feasibility are indicated, using different shades of green: the darker the
green, the most apt.
Most apt
The following policy strategies were rated the most effective and feasible. Expert agree-
ment was typically high on these approaches.
Invest in happiness research
Experts call for more happiness research, since this is required for evidence based poli-
cymaking and for overcoming ideological prepossession about ways to greater happiness.
The experts call for three strands of research in particular: (a) looking for what works for
whom, rather than focusing on an average citizen, (b) monitoring happiness over time, to
assess progress and effectiveness of interventions and (c) assessing how much of the things
deemed conducive for happiness is optimal; for example: How many years of their life
should citizens spend sitting in their school desks, for the sake of greater happiness?
Invest in good governance
Experts emphasize the importance of institutional quality in a country and in particular
quality of the civil services. Though few citizens will associate happiness with bureau-
cracy, well-functioning public organizations does add to the happiness of a great number
of them. One of the reasons is that institutions, like courts and employment offices, create
a predictable environment, in which citizens can plan their lives and are less dependent on
pressures by kin and neighbors.
Support vulnerable people
Experts advise prioritizing strategies aimed at the least happy citizens in a nation. In
this context, they recommend findings ways to: (a) to reduce loneliness and (b) to com-
bat discrimination and (c) to provide free health care. In this context, several experts
also mentioned (d) minimum income security (e) support of families, (f) reduction of
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unemployment, and (g) political empowerment, but the panel is more divided on these
issues.
Strengthen social bonds
Experts mention several ways to improve the social climate in a nation and in particular
recommend policies to (a) promote voluntary work and (b) increase support for non-profit
organizations. Some of the experts recommend introduction of civil service. Further rec-
ommendations in this context rated average for effectiveness and feasibility are: (c) to
facilitate social contacts, such as by providing (d) support for local fairs and festivals. The
above-mentioned advice to support families also fits this context.
Invest in health care
The experts advise governments to provide (a) free health care, a strategy already men-
tioned above in the context of focusing on vulnerable people, (b) to prioritize prevention
and in that context and (c) to encourage healthy living. Expert call for (d) investment in
mental health care in particular and in that line also finding ways (e) to bring life-skills into
schools and (f) foster people’s ability to choose.
Invest in education
Experts agree largely that (a) investment in education is an effective and feasible way to
greater happiness in a country, but they are less unanimous on whether (b) free education is
required for that purpose. They are also less unanimous, but still positive, about particular
investments, such (c) to bring life skills into the school curriculum (d) maintain order in
schools, (e) monitor happiness in schools and (f) also support happiness education outside
the school system.
Support work
Macro-economic strategies score not too high in the ratings, as we will see in more detail
below, however most experts recommend (a) improvement of working conditions and (b)
reduction of unemployment.
Focus on economic stability
With respect to macro-economic policy, the experts advise (a) an economic policy that
favors stability over growth. Fostering economic growth is at the bottom of Table 2.
Though experts recommend (b) providing minimum income security and (c) reducing
unemployment (as mentioned above for supporting vulnerable people), the experts are less
in favor of (d)reducing income inequality and (e) reducing working hours.
Higher tax
Most of the above recommendations will require higher tax rates. Experts deem that strat-
egy effective, but not well feasible.
Least apt
Let us now look at the ways to greater happiness deemed less effective by the majority of
the experts, presented in the lower part of Table2. Since at least one expert has proposed
all strategies, low average ratings typically go together with high difference of rating, the
correlation between average and standard deviation is -.43. Note that a low score for effec-
tiveness and feasibility does not mean that the proposed strategy will be counter-productive
and lower average happiness in a nation; rather it means that the ‘medicine’ will not work.
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Combat capitalism and consumerism
Though market forces are often held responsible for unhappiness in modern societies (e.g.
by Lane 2000), not all experts support all suggestions for taming these forces, such as (a)
to counter-balance global capitalism. Experts also do not support (b) reduction of working
hours and (c) stimulating consumption of stimulus-goods over comfort-goods. This is not
to say that our panel embraces materialism, because they unanimously see some point in
(d) favoring saving over consumption and expect little gain in (e) supporting home-own-
ership and (f) fostering economic growth. Above, we have also seen that the experts are
positive about some correction of market forces, such as improving work conditions and
providing minimum income security.
Improve happiness advice and coaching
Experts are skeptical about (a)fostering professional happiness coaching, typically fruits of
the new ‘positive psychology’. Still, we have seen above that they endorse (b)investment in
mental health care and (c)bringing life-skills into the school curriculum.
Support modernization
Though people live happiest in the most modern societies, the panel is divided on whether
backing spontaneous societal development (rather than slowing it down), will add to
greater happiness in a country. The experts agree on a low rating for feasibility of this
strategy.
3.1.2 Agreement andDisagreement Among Experts About Policy Strategies
How much consensus is there within the panel? On what strategies do the experts agree?
On which do they diverge? Expert agreement is indicated by shades of red in Table2.
Agreement
Experts agree most on: (a) reduce loneliness, (b) combat discrimination, (c) focus on the
least happy and (d) empower and involve citizens. They also agree strongly on the lower
effectiveness of (e) maintaining order in schools, (f) investing in a greener environment, (g)
education of parents and (h) reducing income inequality.
Disagreement
In their ratings of strategies policy makers can follow to raise the level of happiness in
a country, experts differ most on the following economic strategies: (a) improving work-
conditions and (b) reduction of unemployment and (c) increasing foreign aid. Experts also
differ in their ratings of the following issues in health policy: (d) prioritizing prevention,
(e) encourage healthy living and (f) getting people to the dentist. Another point of disa-
greement is (g) reduce use of cars and (h) stimulate study abroad.
3.1.3 Dierence Between Eectiveness andFeasibility ofPolitical Strategies
Ways to greater happiness can be effective but not easily feasible, or well feasible, but not
very effective. Do such differences occur in the ratings of our experts? Below we consider
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the differences of more than 1 point on the 1 to 5 ratings of effectiveness and feasibility of
particular strategies. Note that the panel was selected for expertise in effectiveness in the
first place and may not be equally acknowledged on practicability.
Effective but not feasible
Several macro-economic strategies are seen to be effective, but not feasible. These are: (a)
favor economic stability over economic growth, (b) increase support for non-profits, (c)
increase taxes and (d) reduce income inequality. A similar difference appears in the rat-
ings of two psychological strategies: (e) foster ability to choose and (f) support happiness
education. Likewise, experts deem effectiveness higher than feasibility for (g) promoting
voluntary work, such as by civil service for every body and (h) empowering citizens and
involving them in the political process. Surprisingly, the biggest difference (2 points), was
on maintaining order in schools.
Feasible but not effective
Interestingly, none of the strategies policymakers can follow were deemed better feasible
than effective.
3.1.4 Cost‑Eectiveness
The macro strategies deemed most effective + feasible are also rated high for cost-effec-
tiveness, that is, rated 4 or more. This is most apparent for (a) investment in happiness
research, such as monitoring happiness in nations, findings out what works for whom and
assessing how much of conditions for happiness is optimal in a nation. Likewise, (b)invest-
ments in social support are deemed cost-effective, in particular reducing loneliness and
a policy focus on the least happy. Promoting (c) good governance is also rated high for
cost-effectiveness.
None of the strategies that were rated effective + feasible (6.7 or more) was deemed to
be cost-ineffective (3 or less) and none of the strategies in the lower half of Table 2 was
rated cost-effective.
3.2 What Do Experts Think That Individuals Can Do toMake Their Lives More
Satisfying Life?
Together, the experts proposed 68 strategies that individuals could follow to raise their own
happiness. These options and the expert’s ratings of these for effectiveness and feasibility
are presented in Table3. Again, we first summarize the strategies rated highest and next
the ones rated lowest, we then consider unanimity among the experts and lastly the pos-
sible divergence between effectiveness and feasibility of the strategies.
3.2.1 Average Ratings forEectiveness andFeasibility ofIndividual Strategies
Which of the individual strategies are reckoned to be the most apt? Which the least? Differ-
ences ratings are indicated using shades of green in the columns of Table3
Most apt
The general strategies in the top of the table are rated higher than the more specific recom-
mendations at the bottom. The main recommendations are as follows:
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Connect
Experts advise in the first place to focus social bonds, such as by (a) investing in friends
and family, (b) joining a club, (c) acting nicely (d) marrying and (e) socialize with col-
leagues. They see more gain in social contact when (f) the focus is on the happiness of oth-
ers and that advice fits the strategy recommended below.
Seek meaning
Experts think that living a meaningful life will make that life more satisfying. They rec-
ommend the following ways to seek meaning: (a) live up to your values, and if you are
religious, practice your religion, (b) be generous and (c) volunteer, and (d) do not focus
on your own happiness in the first place and (e) seek a purpose in life, which (f) you may
clarify by writing a personal mission statement.
Be active
Experts agree that an active way of life is the most satisfying. They recommend in particu-
lar (a) getting regular physical exercise, (b) to keep learning and (c) to set goals and (d)to
seek challenges. This advice goes counter to common notions of an easy happy life.
Mind your health
Alongside their advice to live an active life, experts also recommend (a) to get regular and
ample sleep and some of them even endorse the recommendation (b) to optimize one’s
bedroom for good sleep. With respect to physical health experts advise (c) to check your
health regularly and (d) to invest in a good health insurance. With respect to mental health,
there is modest support for (f) use of professional advice, though mental health care figures
prominently in the policy strategies reviewed above in Sect.4.1. Still, some trainings for
positive mental health are mentioned, such as cultivating a positive outlook on life, which
we discuss below.
Cultivate a positive outlook
Several strategies are mentioned in this context. (a) Fostering self-acceptance is rated effec-
tive, but not easily feasible and experts disagree on the effectiveness of (b) to laugh often,
(c) follow trainings that promote a positive outlook, (d) to keep a gratitude journal or (e) to
write about positive experiences.
Save
Economic issues are again not very prominent in the rankings. The highest scores are for
the advice to (a) enroll in automatic saving plans, (b) to avoid getting into debt and (c) to
invest in durables and savings. Experts are less supportive of the advice (d) to minimize
credit cards.
Find a way of life that fits you
Not very prominent either, is the more abstract advice to (a) find a lifestyle that fits you and
in particular, (b) a job that fits you. This strategy requires you (c) to know your strengths
and (d) to monitor your happiness, neither of which are seen as very effective or feasible.
Least apt
At the bottom of Table3 are many strategies deemed ineffective or not feasible; most of
these are rather specific recommendations.
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Get rich
Contrary to the common view that money buys happiness, experts do not advise (a) to
build wealth, which is deemed ineffective and not very feasible for most individuals. The
same holds for (b) own your house. These judgements do not fit too well with the above-
mentioned advice to save.
Have children
Raising a family is rated as feasible, but not as an effective way of raising one’s own happi-
ness. Owning a pet is deemed slightly more effective, though experts diverge on that mat-
ter. Experts do endorse the advice to live close to family, though they deem this not easily
done.
Reduce workload
In spite of considerable publicity about work-stress and related burnout (e.g. Schor 1991)
experts do not whole-heartedly endorse the advice to (a) limit your working hours, and see
no point at all in (b) work part-time. They see more effect in (c) avoiding a long commute,
but rate the feasibility of that option as low for most individuals.
Choose for an alternative life-style
Several of the lowest rated strategies are part of unconventional ways of life, inspired by
anti-materialism, new-age thinking, environmental concern and food-awareness, such as:
(a) de-clutter, (b) eliminate screens in your house, (c) designate a ‘flow’ room, (d) create a
meditation space and (e) become a vegan. As noted in Sect.2.4, these strategies were part
of a set of optional questions on specific behaviors, which we added in the last round. One
of the reasons for the low scores is probably, that there is little research on these matters,
and probably for that reason, several experts skipped these optional questions.
3.2.2 Agreement andDisagreement Among Experts About Individual Strategies
What can we say about consensus in the panel on ways in which individuals can make their
life more satisfying? Differences in expert agreement are indicated using shades of red in
Table3. The darker the red, the less agreement.
Agreement
Experts agree the most on high effectiveness of (a) investment in family and friends, (b)
leading an active life, such as by (c) setting goals and (d) volunteering. Experts also agree
on the importance of: (e) being open for enjoyments, (f) good sleep and (g) self-acceptance.
They also agree in low ratings for (h) opting for an average house and (i) de-cluttering.
Disagreement
Experts disagree most on the recommendations inspired by positive psychology, such as
(a) laugh, (b) train to have a positive outlook, (c) develop skills required for greater hap-
piness and (d) monitor your happiness. They also disagree (e) on the effectiveness of self-
employment for leading a happier life.
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3.2.3 Dierence Between Eectiveness andFeasibility ofIndividual Strategies
The following ratings of effectiveness and feasibility differed more than 1 point on scale
1–5. Remember that the panel was selected for expertise in effectiveness in the first place.
Effective but not feasible
The experts rate effectiveness of the following psychological strategies higher than their
feasibility: (a) accept yourself, (b) seek a job that fits you and (c) find a way of life that fits
you. A similar difference appears in the ratings of two more tangible strategies: (d) keep
out of debt and (e) avoid long commutes. The greatest difference in effectiveness and feasi-
bility is seen in (f) live in an environment of trust.
Feasible but not effective
The experts rate practicability higher than effectiveness for (a) use/learn social media and
(b) create a ‘pride shrine’ in your house. In both cases, the difference is due to a low effec-
tiveness rating.
3.2.4 Cost‑Eectiveness ofIndividual Strategies
The individual strategies rated highest for effectiveness + feasibility are also rated highest for
cost-effectiveness, that is 4 points or more. This concerns building social bonds, such as by
investing in friends and family, joining clubs and focusing on the happiness of others. Like-
wise, life-style matters rated high for cost-effectiveness are: be active, experience nature and
get exercise.
Only one of the individual strategies deemed effective and feasible, was rated cost-ineffec-
tive, that is below 3. This was investing in experiences. None of the strategies rated lower than
6.7 for effectiveness + feasibility was considered cost-effective.
4 Discussion
Above, we summarized the experts’ responses, focusing on strategies deemed both effective
and feasible. Let us now take a helicopter view of the results. Below, we will first consider
the differences between the view taken by experts and prevailing public opinion on ways to
greater happiness. We then dwell on the difference in views among experts; we set out to
establish consensus but find much disagreement. Next, we consider possible ideological bias
in the expert ratings; could their reading of facts be influenced by their political preferences?
Lastly, we propose an agenda for further synthetic research on ways to greater happiness.
4.1 Dierences withCommon Views onWays toGreater Happiness
The results of this study will not surprise most of our colleague researchers, since they
reflect the current state of the art. Still, some may have expected greater consensus than
appears from the ratings. There will be more news for lay people, since many of the recom-
mendations made by the experts are absent in public opinion polls on perceived sources of
happiness.
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4.1.1 Discrepancy inExpert‑Lay View onWays toRaise Happiness intheNation
Studies on perceived sources of happiness in the general public are listed in the Bibliogra-
phy of Happiness (Veenhoven 2017c), in the subject section ‘Views on happiness in public
opinion’.
We acknowledged this literature in the comments below.
Expert’s views fit common sense with respect to (a) reducing unemployment, (b) creat-
ing a supportive social climate and (c) providing minimum income security, (d) free health
care and free education and (e) investing in clean air.
A surprise may be in the high rating of (f) good governance, the functioning of bureau-
cracy in particular, though corruption figures in some polls as a source of unhappiness. Lay
people may not expect that experts rate (f) more happiness research highest, as they will
think that experts know everything already.
Things mentioned by the experts, that may not be expected by the public are; (g)
increased taxes, (h) prioritize mental health care and (i) bringing life skills into schools.
Lay-people may be surprised to see that experts disagree so much in their effectiveness
ratings of (j) improving work conditions, (k) reducing unemployment and (l) prioritize pre-
ventive healthcare, in particular (m) healthy living.
4.1.2 Discrepancy inExpert‑Lay Views onWays toGreater Happiness forOne‑Self
Studies on perceived sources of one’s own happiness i are listed in the Bibliography of
Happiness (Veenhoven 2017c), in the subject section ‘Views on one’s own happiness’.
What are the similarities and differences with the expert’s recommendations?
The expert recommendations fit public opinion with respect to importance of (a) social
bonds, family in particular, (b) an active life-style and (c) a green home environment. Expert’s
ratings also fit lay-people’s majority view that (c) building wealth is not required for a happy
life.
Expert’s ratings also fit common-sense view that no greater happiness is to be expected
from following trendy alternative life-style advice, such as (d) eliminate screens, (e) create a
flow-room in your house or (f) become a vegan. Likewise, lay-people may be equally skeptical
about the effectiveness of psychological training as most of the experts are.
The expert’s opinion that (g) children do not add to happiness, differs from the dominant
view in public opinion, though this counter-intuitive finding has received much attention in the
media. There is no strong public opinion on the effect on happiness of (h) self-employment,
but lay-people will be surprised to see that experts differ so much on this issue.
4.2 Why Not More Agreement?
The prime aim of this study was to assess scientific consensus on ways to greater happiness.
We found considerable agreement among our experts, but also much disagreement, as can be
seen from the many red colored cells in Tables2 and 3. Why is there so much disagreement
among experts?
One reason is in the maturity of this research field. Happiness research is new, taking off
in the 1990s, and many issues have not yet had sufficient research for the answers to become
crystallized. This is why reviewers disagree so often (cf. Sect.1) and why, for getting an over-
view, we resorted to the Delphi method.
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Another reason may be found in disciplinary differences in our panel of experts, in par-
ticular between economists and psychologists, each drawing on a somewhat different research
literature. The divergence in effectiveness ratings for life-coaching and psychological exercises
may results from this.
One more reason lies in the questions we presented the experts. We asked them for ways to
greater happiness that apply for all countries and all individuals, that is, one-size-fits-all rec-
ommendations. We did so, because we wanted to grasp consensus about universal conditions.
Yet, in reality, conditions for happiness differ considerably between and within countries.
4.3 Leftish Bias?
Some of the strategies endorsed by the experts fit a left wing socialist-political agenda, such
as (a) free health care and free education, (b) minimum income security, (c) increased taxes
and (d) favor economic stability over growth. Yet experts do not cherish all leftish ideas, given
their low ratings for (e) reduction of income inequality and (f) counter-balancing global capi-
talism. In their rating of individual strategies, the experts also do not endorse less work or lav-
ish spending. Note that experts were asked to judge ways to greater happiness based on their
scientific knowledge, not to present their ideological preferences.
4.4 Future Research
This study reflects the views of leading experts on happiness at this moment. Since much
progress is made in this research field, it would be interesting to repeat this study every
10years.
A possible addition can be, to run parallel studies among policy-makers, practition-
ers in the field of life-coaching and the public. This would provide us a better view on
the difference between current beliefs about ways to greater happiness and established
facts on that matter.
5 Conclusions
There is considerable expert consensus on some ways in which policy makers can raise
the level of happiness in a country, in particular to (a) invest in more happiness research,
(b) to strengthen social bonds, (c) to promote good governance, and (d) to invest in
education. They also agree on the ineffectiveness of several common strategies, among
which (e) fostering economic growth.
Likewise, experts agree that ways individuals can follow to raise their own happiness
are; (a) invest in your social bonds, (b) keep learning and (c) lead an active life. Experts
also agree on the ineffectiveness of several trendy alternative ways of life.
There is also a lot of disagreement in our panel of experts in empirical happiness
research and it is a task for further research to get a better view on the suitability of the
various ways to greater happiness.
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6 Electronic supplementary materials
Ways to Greater Happiness: A Delphy Study
EHERO working paper 2017-01, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands, Eras-
mus Happiness Economics Research Organization, Available at: https ://www.eur.nl/en/
ehero /publi catio ns/worki ng-paper s/2017-01.
Same text but in a pdf-version that provides links from statements in the text to rows
in tables, which is not possible in the pdf version currently used for this journal. This
working paper also provides links to further supplementary materials.
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... In a recent Delphi study by Buettner et al. [42], 14 leading scientists rated the effectiveness of 'Ways to greater happiness on a 5-step scale. Their effectiveness rating for 'Develop skills for greater happiness, using self-help or professional coaching' was 3.1, while their average rating for ways such as 'Invest in friends and family' and 'Get physical exercise' was about 4. The general public seems to have a mixed attitude towards happiness advice and training. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Most people want to be happy and many look out for opportunities to achieve a more satisfying life. Following a happiness training is an option, but the effectiveness of such training is being questioned. In this research synthesis we assessed: 1) whether happiness training techniques add to the happiness of their users, 2) how much happiness training techniques add to happiness, 3) how long the effect of happiness training lasts, 4) what kinds of training techniques work best, and 5) what types of groups of people profit from taking happiness training. We took stock of the available research and found 106 reports of effect studies on training techniques, which together yielded 314 findings. These findings are available in an online ‘findings archive’, the World Database of Happiness. Using links to this source allows us to condense information in tabular overviews, while providing the reader with access to much detail. Happiness training techniques seem to do what they are designed to do: 96% of the studies showed a gain in happiness post intervention and at follow-up, about half of the positive results were statistically significant. Studies with cross-sectional designs and studies that used control groups showed more mixed results. The average effect of happiness training was approximately 5% of the scale range. We conclude that taking a form of happiness training is advisable for individuals looking for a more satisfying life. Since happier workers tend to be more productive, organizations would be wise to provide such training techniques for their workforce.
... In a recent Delphi study by Buettner et al. [42], 14 leading scientists rated the effectiveness of 'Ways to greater happiness on a 5-step scale. Their effectiveness rating for 'Develop skills for greater happiness, using self-help or professional coaching' was 3.1, while their average rating for ways such as 'Invest in friends and family' and 'Get physical exercise' was about 4. The general public seems to have a mixed attitude towards happiness advice and training. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Most people want to be happy and many look out for opportunities to achieve a more satisfying life. Following a happiness training is an option, but the effectiveness of such training is being questioned. In this research synthesis we assessed: 1) whether happiness training techniques add to the happiness of their users, 2) how much happiness training techniques add to happiness, 3) how long the effect of happiness training lasts, 4) what kinds of training techniques work best, and 5) what types of groups of people profit from taking happiness training. We took stock of the available research and found 106 reports of effect studies on training techniques, which together yielded 314 findings. These findings are available in an online 'findings archive', the World Database of Happiness. Using links to this source allows us to condense information in tabular overviews, while providing the reader with access to much detail. Happiness training techniques seem to do what they are designed to do: 96% of the studies showed a gain in happiness post intervention and at follow-up, about half of the positive results were statistically significant. Studies with cross-sectional designs and studies that used control groups showed more mixed results. The average effect of happiness training was Prime Archives in Psychology: 2 nd Edition 3 www.videleaf.com approximately 5% of the scale range. We conclude that taking a form of happiness training is advisable for individuals looking for a more satisfying life. Since happier workers tend to be more productive, organizations would be wise to provide such training techniques for their workforce.
... In general, happiness has been described as the satisfaction and positive effect on life and a relative absence of negative affect. [2] Happy people have four constant characteristics: self-esteem, optimism, self-control, and extraversion [3][4][5] According to an international study, Iran's happiness score was 5.29, which is very low compared to Denmark, with the highest score (8.2). [6] The presence of happiness in life plays an essential role in choosing the lifestyle including diet, physical activity, and weight control, all of which affect our mental and physical health. ...
Article
Full-text available
BACKGROUND: Happiness is one of the main components of mental health that plays an important role in promoting people's health. This study aimed to investigate the status of happiness in students of Iran University of Medical Sciences and its relationship with students' attitudes toward the field of education and the future of career in 2017. MATERIALS AND METHODS: This cross-sectional study was performed on 500 students of Iran University of Medical Sciences The data collection tool was a questionnaire consisting of three parts: demographic information, Oxford Happiness Inventory; A questionnaire was used to measure students' attitudes about their career future, which was completed by students of Iran University of Medical Sciences. In order to analyze the data, SPSS software version 24 and descriptive and analytical statistics were used. RESULTS: Findings showed that 72% of students had a good level of happiness. There is also a significant relationship between happiness and attitude toward the field of study. According to the results, there is a significant relationship between the career future and the amount of happiness. There was a significant relationship between gender and happiness CONCLUSION: The study findings show that, by planning correctly in determining the fields of education and ensuring the future of the job, happiness can be improved among students. Therefore, it is recommended that the authorities take the students with the correct needs assessment in the field of business education in the field of study.
... The idea is to design a public policy or part of it to improve social conditions for happiness, whether in a utilitarianist approach or, as I prefer, in a negative utilitarianist approach. This design can be made by doing a literature review, and using the World Database of Happiness can help, or by doing a Delphi study, see as an example Buettner et al. (2020). We then have to assess the cost of the new policy and compare this cost to the cost of the current policy. ...
Article
Full-text available
Happiness and efficient public spending are considered to be two desirable goals. In this paper, I consider happiness in the sense of how much one likes the life one leads (Veenhoven, 1984), and emphasize negative utilitarianism (Popper, 1952) as the best approach for promoting happiness in public policies. An ethical framework about public policies implemented to improve social conditions for happiness is suggested. I give a definition of the term optimization and propose two methods to optimize the relationship between public spending and social conditions for happiness. I briefly introduce a bookkeeping method, and I then present the bases of an econometric method in which quantile regression is described as the best tool within the negative utilitarianist approach, because quantile regression makes possible to know which independent variables influence most the degree of happiness of the least happy/ the saddest. The bookkeeping and the econometric methods presented are useful for any local, regional, national or supranational authority. These methods may also be useful for optimizing the relationship between natural resources consumption and social conditions for happiness. The paper is a conceptual paper.
... • Recommendations for action for politics and society 8,9 • Quality indicators for healthcare-related interventions 10 • Possible future developments 11 The question is, however, how a Delphi study can be used to reach consensus, and how different scientific disciplines and spheres of experience can be brought together. ...
Article
Delphi techniques are used in health care and nursing to systematically bring together explicit and implicit knowledge from experts with a research or practical background, often with the goal of reaching a group consensus. Consensus standards and findings are important for promoting the exchange of information and ideas on an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary basis, and for guaranteeing comparable procedures in diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Yet, the development of consensus standards using Delphi techniques is challenging because it is dependent on the willingness of experts to participate and the statistical definition of consensus.
... To make entrepreneurship a career path in which individuals can thrive, we need to support entrepreneurs to appreciate the important role of recovery as an investment in their future well-being, health, and productivity. We showcased what happiness researchers agree to be effective and feasible (Buettner, Nelson, & Veenhoven, 2020) recovery interventions from the science of well-being and occupational research and how they may be adapted to fit the unique context of entrepreneurship. This provides a roadmap for entrepreneurship scholars to advance our understanding of entrepreneurial recovery and illbeing. ...
Article
Full-text available
Entrepreneurship is uniquely stressful. Entrepreneurs often cannot avoid entrepreneurial stressors (e.g., uncertainty, workload, resource constraints) and these stressors can deter natural recovery activities (e.g., detachment and sleep). Yet, entrepreneurs may be able to lessen the negative impact of stress on their well-being, health, and productivity by engaging in recovery. In this editorial, we outline how scholars can employ recovery interventions to ameliorate some of entrepreneurship’s ill effects and support entrepreneurs’ health, well-being, and productivity. We aim to move the focus of scholarly inquiry from documenting the health and well-being challenges of entrepreneurs, towards identifying and implementing solutions to support entrepreneurs.
... In a recent Delphi study by Buettner et al. (2020), 14 leading scientists rated the effectiveness of "Ways to Greater Happiness" on a five-step scale. Their effectiveness rating for "Develop skills for greater happiness, using self-help or professional coaching" was 3.1, while their average rating for methods such as "Invest in friends and family" and "Get physical exercise" was about 4. ...
Article
Full-text available
Most people want to be happy and many look out for opportunities to achieve a more satisfying life. Following a happiness training is an option, but the effectiveness of such training is being questioned. In this research synthesis we assessed: (1) whether happiness training techniques add to the happiness of their users, (2) how much happiness training techniques add to happiness, (3) how long the effect of happiness training lasts, (4) what kinds of training techniques work best, and (5) what types of groups of people profit from taking happiness training. We took stock of the available research and found 61 reports of effect studies on training techniques, which together yielded 179 findings. These findings are available in an online “findings archive,” the World Database of Happiness. Using links to this source allows us to condense information in tabular overviews, while providing the reader with access to much detail. Happiness training techniques seem to do what they are designed to do: 96% of the studies showed a gain in happiness post intervention and at follow-up, about half of the positive results were statistically significant. Studies with cross-sectional designs and studies that used control groups showed more mixed results. The average effect of happiness training was approximately 5% of the scale range. We conclude that taking a form of happiness training is advisable for individuals looking for a more satisfying life. Since happier workers tend to be more productive, organizations would be wise to provide such training techniques for their workforce.
... The experts had more confidence in happiness increasing techniques such as 'Invest in friends and family' and 'Get physical exercise', which were rated with a (4). Getting children (2,7) or gaining wealth (2.8) was rated lower than skill development with self-help or professional coaches [13]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Some positive psychologists claim that quantitative research leads to the most effective interventions for the intentional pursuit of happiness. A similar claim made in psychotherapy research resulted in failure; fifty years of experimental research has not improved psychotherapy outcomes. In this essay it is argued that the explosion in happiness studies of the last twenty years did has not improved effect sizes of happiness interventions. The supposed epistemological superiority of positive psychologists has not produced more effective happiness advice. This should not be taken as an encouragement to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If we follow current reasoning in psychotherapy research, we can conclude that positive psychological research can correct misguided or counterproductive happiness advice, but will not offer definitive answers. The individuals making his their own choices on the basis of a personal life philosophy count. A further conclusion is that happiness interventions should not just be about acquiring skills to correct the affective system in our brains, so that we are able to overcome our negativity bias or hedonic adaptation. Intervention should also be about following our emotional action tendencies; promoting doing to do more of what feels right to us and avoiding what causes pain.
Chapter
Full-text available
Expanding factors already discussed in previous chapters, this chapter identified 12 factors/ways important for increasing happiness: Attitude, balance, confidence, dignity, engagement, family/friends, gratitude, health, ideals, joyful, kindness, love.
Article
Full-text available
A large literature documents the correlates and causes of subjective well-being, or happiness. But few studies have investigated whether people choose happiness. Is happiness all that people want from life, or are they willing to sacrifice it for other attributes, such as income and health? Tackling this question has largely been the preserve of philosophers. In this article, we find out just how much happiness matters to ordinary citizens. Our sample consists of nearly 13,000 members of the UK and US general populations. We ask them to choose between, and make judgments over, lives that are high (or low) in different types of happiness and low (or high) in income, physical health, family, career success, or education. We find that people by and large choose the life that is highest in happiness but health is by far the most important other concern, with considerable numbers of people choosing to be healthy rather than happy. We discuss some possible reasons for this preference.
Article
Full-text available
The World Database of Happiness is an ongoing register of scientific research on subjective appreciation of life. It brings together findings that are scattered throughout many studies and prepares for research synthesis. The database stores research findings and presents these in standardized abstracts. This system differs from bibliographies that store publications and data-archives that store investigations. The system prepares for synthetic analysis by capitalizing on conceptual selectiveness, comparability, and completeness. As the method is new, there is no common word for it. It is called a finding-browser. The database allows selection of findings by a) indicator used, b) public, time and place, c) methodology of the investigation. The correlational findings can also be found on subject. The system prepares for synthetic studies, in particular for reviews and meta-analyses; it facilitates comparisons across time and nations. When applied on a well-defined field, it allows a better accumulation of available knowledge and a better focusing of new research. The data-system serves to cope with the following problems of research integration, a) chronic confusion of tongues, b) growing mass of research findings, c) scattered publication of findings, and d) selective reviewing and retrieval of findings. The database is freely available on the web. The Internet address is: http:// www. eur. nl/fsw.eur.nl/research/happiness.
Article
Notions of a good life have not changed much over time. All the concepts known today can be found in early writings. What has changed is the prominence attached to the aspects of the good life. Another long-term change is that conceptualizations became more specific and that empirical research has revealed their reality links, which made increasingly clear that there is no such thing as ‘true happiness.’
Article
There are marked variations between nations in reported subjective well-being (SWB), but the explanations for this diversity have not been fully explored. It is possible that the differences are entirely due to true variability in SWB, but it is also reasonable that the differences may be due to factors related to self-report measurement such as variation across nations in whether it is desirable to say one is happy. At a substantive level, there might be differences in the norms governing the experience of emotion such that cultural differences in SWB are due to affective regulation. Pacific Rim countries (e.g., Japan, the People's Republic of China, and S. Korea) appear to have lower SWB than their material circumstances warrant, and the U.S.A. has higher SWB than is predicted based on its income per person. The genesis of these differences was explored by comparing students in S. Korea, Japan, and the People's Republic of China to students in the U.S.A., and it was concluded that: (1) The Pacific Rim subjects score lower on both happiness and life satisfaction in both absolute terms and when income is controlled, (2) There probably is not a general negative response set in the Pacific Rim which causes lower SWB, as evidenced by the fact that the Asians express dissatisfaction in some areas (e.g., education and self) but not in other areas (e.g., social relationships), (3) Artifacts are not causing the lower reported SWB, (4) The general suppression of mood in the Pacific Rim is unlikely to be the cause of SWB differences, but Chinese students do appear to avoid negative affect, (5) SWB is no less important and salient in Japan and S. Korea, but does appear to be a less central concern in China, and (6) There are different patterns of well-being depending on whether life satisfaction or hedonic balance are considered.
Directory of happiness investigators. World Database of Happiness
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Veenhoven, R. (2017b). Directory of happiness investigators. World Database of Happiness, Erasmus University Rotterdam. http://world datab aseof happi ness.eur.nl/direc tory.htm. Accessed 1 June 2016.
The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies
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World database of happiness: Archive of research findings on the subjective enjoyment of one’s life as-a-whole
  • R Veenhoven
Veenhoven. R. (2017a). World database of happiness: Archive of research findings on the subjective enjoyment of one's life as-a-whole. Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands. https ://world datab aseof happi ness.eur.nl. Accessed 1 June 2016.
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