Did the promise of Enlightenment come true?

Ruut Veenhoven, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Social Indicators Research, 2017, 130 (1), 9-25, DOI 10.1007/s11205-015-1128x, Open Access

In the 18th century ‘Enlightened’ thinkers challenged the belief that happiness exists only in Heaven. They claimed that happiness is possible in earthly life and foresaw that greater happiness would be achieved using reason. Did this promise of greater happiness come true? Several scholars doubt that we have become any happier and some claim that happiness has declined.
These critical claims are tested using the time trend data available in the World Database of Happiness, which cover the period 1950 t0 2010 and involve 1531 data points in 67 nations yielding 199 time-series ranging for 10 to more than 40 years
The analysis reveals that happiness has risen in most nations. The average yearly rise in the 67 nations was +0.012 on scale 0-10, which equals a rise of one full point every 83 years. At this rate happiness must have improved by more than two points over the past two centuries and, together with increasing longevity, this denotes an unprecedented rise in happy life years.

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