Erasmus University Rotterdam, Social Sciences, Department of Sociology


Subjective enjoyment of one’s life as a whole: measurement, prevalence, determinants and consequences


1 DATA GATHERING: World Database of Happiness 

Ongoing catalog of empirical research findings on happiness, meant to facilitate research synthesis and comparison across time and nations. Serves as the basis for studies ad 2.

The data collection is free available on the web:

Since its start in 1999 the database attracted 356.775 visitors, of which 85.775 during the last year.
The Database involves the following inventories:

1.1 Bibliography of Happiness  (Blok, DenBuitelaar, Oostmeijer, Veenhoven, Vijverberg)
Stores publications that deal with happiness in the sense of life satisfaction.
Involves detailed subject classification. Contains currently 4415 publications.
Linked to Directory of Investigators, which contains 7565 names of investigators of which about 2000 with recent address.

Ouput 2005

        265 new publications entered
        246 new addresses entered
Planning 2006
        Entering about 500 new publications
        Linking to electronic publications

1.2       Item bank of happiness  (Veenhoven, Vijverberg)
Inventory of acceptable measures of happiness, mainly survey questions.
Classified by conceptual focus, timeframe, method of assessment and rating scale.
Links to studies that used these measures. Contains currently 875 acceptable measures

Ouput 2005
        81 new items entered
        Start of entering text in other languages than English
Start of item homogenization project (1.7)
Planning 2006
        Continuation of entering text in other languages than English
        Entering new weights for computing comparable means. See project 1.7

1.3       Catalog of Distributional Findings in Nations (Veenhoven, Wartena)
Finding-browser that presents distribution of responses on acceptable questions on happiness in surveys of the general population in nations.
Can be searched on item type, time and nation
Contains currently 2800 findings from 95 nations 1942-2004

Ouput 2005
        307 new findings entered
        Update of 8 finding reports on website
Planning 2006
        Entering about 200 new findings
Recomputing of transformed scores using weights from project 1.7

1.4    Catalog of Correlational Findings
(Blokzijl, DenBuitelaar, Kalmijn, Metz, Mieras, Shinnick, Swier, VanderJagt, VanOosterdorp, Veenhoven, Wartena)Finding browser that presents mini-abstracts of correlational research findings.
Can be searched on subject, happiness item, time and nation.
Contains now 8786 findings from 861

Ouput 2005
56 reports entered, involving 366 findings
        Programs for calculation of statistics added
Planning 2006
Entering about 100 reports
Instruction for excerpters

1.5    States of nations database (Veenhoven, Wiltschut)
SPSS data file of nation variables. Involves data on happiness in nations derived from the above catalogs and further characteristics of nations taken from international statistics and surveys.  
Meant to facilitate cross-national research on happiness.
The data file is free available on request
Contains currently 102 nations

Output 2005
Addition of 10 nations and 15 variables
        Cleaning up of the archivePlanning for 2006
        Addition of more nations

1.6    Trends in nations database (Veenhoven, Wartena)
SPSS data file of distribution of happiness in nations by year and time-series of background variables drawn from international statistics. Meant to facilitate analysis of trends of happiness in nations. The data file is free available on request. Contains currently time series of 30 years and more in 12 nations

Output 2005
        First version published
Planning for 2006
        Addition of time series of happiness in social categories, such as in aged people

1.7       Item homogenization (Kalmijn, Mulder, Veenhoven)
Improvement of comparability of responses to differently worded questions in different languages using Thurstone transformation technique. Students in different countries rate the happiness intensity of response options to commonly used questions on happiness. The resulting weights are entered in the item bank and will allow automatic computation of transformed scores

Output 2005
        First questionnaire fielded
        Collection of questions in different languages startedPlanning for 2006
Data analysis

1.8       Software development (DeHeer)
Findings are entered in three linked Access databases and are displayed on the web using php

Output 2005
        Redesign of website
Improvement of search facilities on the web
Planning 2006
        Optimalisation of website

The data are used for 1) testing theories about happiness, and 2) providing information to support public choice and private choice.

2.1    Happiness and public choice

What policies will create the greatest happiness for the greatest number? The goal of this sub-program is to generate evidence-based knowledge for policy makers who aim at maximizing the level of happiness, while minimizing the difference in happiness among citizens.

2.1.1   The happy society, towards empirically inspired politics  (Berg)
Exploration of the practical feasibility of rule-utilitarianism

Output 2005
∑ Literature study
Planning 2006

        Paper on happiness and income inequality in nations
Paper on happiness and migration

2.1.2   Inequality of happiness in nations (Kalmijn, Ott, Veenhoven)
Analysis of dispersion of happiness in nations

Output 2005
        Update of finding reports on website
          Special issue JOHS over ‘Inequality of happiness in nations' (accepted)
Planning 2006
        Preparation of book

2.1.3   Governance and happiness (Ott, Veenhoven)
Does quality of governance matter?

Output 2005
         Concept paper Planning 2005
        Publication in Dutch and English

2.1.4       Trend of happiness in nations (Veenhoven)

Is life getting better in modern societies?

Output 2004
Update of Trend reports on website
        Paper ‘Is life getting better’ (accepted)
Planning 2006
        Paper about trend of happiness in USA and Easterlin paradox

2.1.5       Social inequalities and happiness in nations (Berg, Blokzijl, Ott)
Which inequalities hurt? 

Output 2004
Analysis of gender inequality across nations
Analysis of income inequality across nations
Planning 2006


Local happiness (Mulliť, Ouweneel)
Do local conditions affect happiness? If so, how? 

Output 2005
Analysis Rotterdam city surveys
Planning 2006


2.1.7   Livability of old age homes(Veenhoven)
What kind of home produce most happy life years for comparable residents

Output 2004

Experiment with assessment of happiness using experience sampling
Planning 2006
        Proposal for controlled follow-up study

2.1.8   Healthy happiness
Happiness appears to lengthen life. What are the consequences of that finding for preventive healthcare?

Output 2005
        Report ZonMw in Dutch
Planning 2006
Presentation at conference
        English paper

2.2    Happiness and private choice What can we do to get happier? What lifestyles are most gratifying, what trainings most effective? How much do the effects differ between kinds of people and why? The goal of this subprogram is to create an evidence-base for happiness advice that can be used in education and counseling.

2.2.1   Happiness and intelligence (Choi)           
Are smart people happier? Do people live happier in high IQ nations?

Output 2005
        Presentation at conference
        Concept paper IQ and happiness
Planning 2006

2.2.2   Mental disorder and happiness (Bergsma)
Which psychological disorders are most detrimental to happiness. Are there disorders, which do not reduce happiness? Is there a difference in effects across persons and situations?

Output 2005
        Analysis of NEMEZIS panel
Planning 2006

2.2.3   Happiness advice (Bergsma, Berg, Veenhoven)
What is advised in self-help books? How effective are the recommendations?
Output 2005
        Special issue JOHS (under review)
Planning 2006
        Proposal for effect study

PM   Projects in preparation

Meditation and happiness
o       Lifestyle and happiness
Effects of life-coaching on happiness
o       Early retirement and happiness

Staff at 1-1-2006

Name job status fte
Maarten Berg (drs) data analysis AIO 0,4
Anneke Blok                                      documentalist volunteer 0,1
Carla den Buitelaar office management EUR-Socia 0,8
Sasqia Blokzijl-ChinHonFoei data entry, data analysis NWO 0,4
Marc Checola (emeritus professor) bibliography, philosphy section volunteer 0,1
Henk DeHeer It volunteer 0,1
Wim Kalmijn (drs) statistics volunteer 0,1
Bernard Metz (MD) data entry volunteer 0,1
Hans Mieras (ir) data entry volunteer 0,1
Joop Mulder text processing volunteer 0,4
Hanny VanOostendorp (drs) data entry volunteer 0,1
Wimnny Oostmeijer documentation volunteer 0,1
Jan Ott (mr drs) data analysis volunteer 0,4
Piet Ouweneel (drs) data analysis volunteer 0,1
Ruud Swier data entry volunteer 0,1
George VanderPoel (dr MD) data entry volunteer 0,1
Ruut Veenhoven (prof dr) direction, data analysis professor 0,4
Dirk Verheyen (dr) maps volunteer 0,1
Stanny Vijverberg-Vanleeuwen data entry volunteer 0,1
Paul Wartena (drs) data entry UWV 0,8
Gerad Wildschut documentation volunteer 0,1


Name Subject
Bachlor students
Giorgio Touburg Happiness and mental health services in nations
Master students
Jenifer Wetsteijn Happiness and life style
Sandy Boulsums Happiness and marriage
Peter Lunenburg Happiness and work
Christine Rittersberger Trend of happiness among women
Liesbeth Snoep Happiness and religion
Cora Verkerk Happiness and values
Ph D students
Maarten Berg Happiness and society
Ad Bergsma Happiness advice
Anthonie Mullie Happiness and local environment
Aghate Rietveld Art of living
Jan Ott Happiness and governance in nations
Piet Ouweneel Local happiness
Ekaterina Uglanova Economic wellbeing
Alex vandenberg Happiness in organizations

Visiting fellows

Name Institute period
Sonia Hernandez-Plaza Dpt of Social Psychology, U. of Almeria, Spain February 1-10 2006
Venassa Gonzales-Herero Dpt. of Psychology, U. of Malaga, Spain March-May 2006
Ekaterina Uglanova School of Economics, Saint Peterburg, Russia April-July 2006
Chrita Biron Darmouth college, USA March 19-25 2006
Imrich Ruisel Academy of science, Slovakia May 2006
Marc Checola Dpt. of Philosophy, U of Minnesota, USA