Ruut Veenhoven, Erasmus University Rotterdam
in: Statistics, Knowledge and Policy 2007. Measuring and fostering the progress of societies. General Economics & Future Studies 2008:6, OECD Publishing, ISBN 978-92-64-04323-7, chapter 16, pp 231-253
Happiness is rising on the political agenda and this calls for measures of how well nations perform in creating great happiness for a great number, analogous to measures of success in creating wealth, such as GDP.
Happiness is defined as subjective enjoyment of one’s life as-a-whole and this can be measured using self-reports. Question on happiness are currently used in large scale surveys of the general population in nations. As a result we have now comparable data on happiness in 95 contemporary nations and time-series of 25 years and longer on 11 developed nations.
These data can be aggregated in different ways: If the aim is simply greater happiness for a greater number of citizens, Average happiness (AH) is an appropriate measure. If the focus is on enduring happiness, it is better to combine average happiness with longevity in an index of Happy Life Years (HLY). If the aim is to reduce disparity among citizens a relevant indicator is the Inequality of Happiness (IH) in the nations as measured with the standard deviation. Average and dispersion can also be combined in an index of Inequality-Adjusted Happiness (IAH).
Comparison across nations shows sizable differences on all these measures of gross national happiness and these differences correspond with societal characteristics that can be influenced by policy makers, such as freedom and justice. Comparison over time shows major improvement during the last decade.
Key words: rule-utilitarianism, policy indicators, happiness