Ruut Veenhoven

Chapter 11 in Ed Diener, John F. Helliwell & Daniel Kahneman (Eds.) International Differences in Well-Being, 2010, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN-13: 978-0-19-973273-9

There is a longstanding discussion on whether happiness is culturally relative or not. The following questions are addressed in that context:
1) Do we all assess how much we like our life?
2) Do we appraise our life on the same grounds?
3) Are the conditions for happiness similar for all of us?
4) Are the consequences of happiness similar in all cultures?
5) Do we all seek happiness?
6) Do we seek happiness in similar ways?
7) Do we enjoy life about equally much?

The available data suggest that all humans tend to assess how much they like their life.The evaluation draws on affective experience, which is linked to gratification of universalhuman needs and on cognitive comparison which is framed by cultural standards of the good life.The overall appraisal seems to depend more on the former, than on the latter source ofinformation. Conditions for happiness appear to be quite similar across the world and so arethe consequences of enjoying life or not. There is more cultural variation in the valuation ofhappiness and in beliefs about conditions for happiness. The greatest variation is found in
how happy people are.

Key words: happiness, life satisfaction, cultural relativism, human nature, utilitarianism

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