Ruut Veenhoven
Conditions of Happiness, Kluwer Academic, 1984, Dordrecht/Boston.

Abstract Chapter 6

Living conditions are generally believed to determine happiness to a large extent. When asked what would make them happier, people usually respond in terms of 'more affluence', 'better work', 'finer family relations' and sometimes 'a better society'. There are indeed considerable differences in happiness between people living in different conditions. However, these differences do not always correspond with current beliefs.

Characteristics of society
There are currently great differences in average happiness in the various parts of the world. People in Asia and Africa are typically least happy, while inhabitants of western nations tend to be most satisfied with life. Within the western world there are also striking differences. people in France, W-Germany and Italy are for instance less happy than people in Australia, Scandinavia and the US. These differences appeared fairly stable through time. Unfortunately no data are available for the communists countries.
Surprisingly nobody has, as yet, tried to identify the social system characteristics that are responsible for these differences. A lust look reveals strong statistical relationships with several economic and political features. Alas, there are as yet hardly any comparable data on cultural characteristics of the nations concerned here.

One's place in society
Living conditions are generally not identical for all members of society. Consequently there are considerable differences in happiness between social categories. However, not all the differences in social status are paralleled by differences in appreciation of life. Neither are the differences equally pronounced in all nations. In contemporary western countries the variables at hand are only modestly related to happiness. Together they explain no more than 10 percent of its variance. Differences in happiness between western nations seem greater than differences in happiness within.