Mariano Rojas and Ruut Veenhoven
Social Indicators Research, , 110: 415-431 , DOI 10.1007/s11205-011-9952-0

How do we assess how happy we are? One theory is that we compare life-as-it- is with standards of how-life-should-be. In this view, happiness emerges from a cognitive evaluation that draws on socially constructed standard of the good life. Another theory holds that we rather infer happiness on the basis of how well we feel most of the time. In that view, happiness is an unreasoned affective experience that roots in the gratification of universal human needs. One question that emerges from this discussion is whether these are really independent ways of evaluating life. If so, a next question is what their relative weight is in the evaluation. These questions are addressed at the nation level using data of the Gallup World Poll over the years 2006–2010. This survey in 127 nations involves not only a question on overall life satisfaction, but also a more cognitively focused question on how close one’s life is to the best possible and a series of questions on yesterday’s mood. Analysis of average scores in nations shows that mood and contentment are much inter-twined, but also add to overall life satisfaction independently, the former more than the latter.

Keywords: Life evaluation, Subjective wellbeing, Cross-national Components of happiness, Life satisfaction, Contentment, Affect

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