Ruut Veenhoven, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Exploratory study for ZonMw* January 2006, 97 pages, in Dutch

Happiness (satisfaction with life) fosters physical health and lengthens life. The size of the effect is comparable to smoking or not. Though it is clear that happiness adds to health, it is not so clear how that works

This means that public health can also be promoted by policies that aim at greater happiness of a greater number. Happiness is no aim in current preventive health care, though some policies work out positively on it. Happiness can be fostered directly in the following ways:

Strengthening individual life abilities, by 1) Broadening of advice for ‘healthy living’ to ‘happy living’, 2) Developing training in ‘art of living’, to begin with research on the effectiveness of current trainings. 3) Supporting the professionalisation of ‘life-coaching’.

Improving the livability of society The focus should not be on economic growth and social security, since that adds little to average happiness, but rather on good governance, direct democracy and protection of freedom, in particular in the private sphere of life

This new approach to health promotion requires further research on happiness and in particular research that help to make better informed choices, such as on the effects of education, work, relationships, time use and consumption.

* ZonMw is the Netherlands' organization for health research and development

Full text in Dutch