Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Published in: J.P. Fargas & J.M. Innes (eds.) 'Recent advances in social psychology: an international perspective'. Elsevier Science, 1989, Amsterdam, pp 235-247
The theory that happiness is relative holds that happiness results from comparison. Standards of comparison are assumed to adjust and thus to prohibit lasting increase in happiness above neutral. Standards are further seen as arbitrary and happiness therefore not as a valuable matter. This theory is at odds with leading beliefs in present welfare-society.
Recent investigations on life-satisfaction claim support for this old theory. Life-satisfaction is reported to be as high in poor as in rich countries (Easterlin) and no less among paralysed accident victims than among lottery winners (Brickman). These sensational claims are inspected, but found untrue.