Erasmus University Rotterdam, Social Sciences, Department of Sociology

SUBJECT: Subjective enjoyment of one’s life as a whole





Section 1

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

The data collection is free available on the web:

Since its start in 1999, the database attracted 527.408 visitors, of which 170.633 during the last year. The number of visits doubled over the last year.

The Database involves the following inventories:

Bibliography of Happiness

Description Stores publications that deal with happiness in the sense of life satisfaction. Involves detailed subject classification. Contains currently 4956 publications. Linked to the Directory of Investigators
Output 2007 320 new publications entered
Links to full texts on websites added, mostly using DOI
Pdf text of some 100 research papers added
Planning 2008 Entering about 250 new publications
Implementing links to full texts on the website
Linking to full texts and excerpts of correlational findings
Re-coding of philosophy section
People Boelhouwer, Blok, Chekola, DenBuitelaar, Mulder, Oostmeijer, Veenhoven, Vijverberg, Zuidgeest

Measures of happiness (Item bank)

Description 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 1057 measures that passed a test for face-validity, of which 434 in other language than English
Output 2007 107 new items entered
434 texts in original languages entred
Planning 2008 Entering about 50 new items
Recalculating "Thurstone weights" on the basis of international happiness scale interval study
People Veenhoven, Vijverberg

Happiness in Nations

Description 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 3314 findings from 104 nations 1942-2006
Output 2007 140 new findings entered
Update of 8 finding reports on website
Planning 2008

Entering about 200 new findings
Implementing "Thurstone values obtained from 'Happiness scale interval study
Revision of maps

People Veenhoven, Verheyen, Wartena

Correlational Findings

Description Finding browser that presents mini-abstracts of correlational research findings.
Can be searched on subject, happiness item, time and nation.
Contains now 9945 findings from 1093 studies in nations
Output 2007 Entered 114 new studies involving 529 findings
Planning 2008 Entering about 150 more studies
Finalizing instruction for excerpters
People Boelhouwer, Blokzijl, Booij, DenBuitelaar, Elia, Kalmijn, Mieras, Ott, Radema, VandeVooren, VanderPoel, VanHecke, Veenhoven, Wartena

States of nations database

Description 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 2007 Addition of backgroud variables for 30 new nations
Planning 2008 Entering happiness data of Gallup World Survey, among which 30 new nations
Entering about 30 new variables
People Veenhoven, Wartena, Wil"dschut

Trends in nations database

Description SPSS data file of distribution of happiness in nations by year and time-series of background variables drawn from international statistics. Intended 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 2007 Updated to 2006
Addition of splitt-up by gender, age and SES for EU nations
Planning 2008 Update to 2007
Addition of time series using Thurstone values obtained from 'Ínternational Happiness scale Interval Study
People Veenhoven, Wartena

International Happines-scale Interval Study

Description 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 2007 Paper accepted for publication in proceedings ISQOLS conference
Studies completed in English (2), Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish (2). Concept methodology paper
Planning 2008

50 more studies in different languages
Analysis of the results
Paper on methodology, paper on substantive results

People Hermus (RISBO), Kalmijn, Mulder, Veenhoven

Software development

Description Improvement of database system and website
Output 2007 none
Planning 2008 Links to full text of sources in bibliography and collections of findings
Hosting at University Library
People Radema, Veenhoven

Directory of investigators on happiness

Description Stores names of investigators on happiness. Part of the Bibliography of Happiness and links to publications. Contains currently 8222 names and about 2500 recent adresses. Available on request for scientific purposes.
Output 2007 384 new names entered
Planning 2008 Entering about 250 new names
Promotion mailing to all authors
People Boelhouwer, Blok, DenBuitelaar

Section 2

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.

The happy society, towards empirically inspired politics

Description Exploration of the practical feasibility of rule-utilitarianism
Output 2007

Published articles:
- Income-inequality and happiness in nations
Prepared papers:
- Modernity and happiness in nations
- Death penalty and happiness in nations
Presentation at ISQOLS conference

Planning 2008 - Publication of above papers
- Paper on happiness and political preference/participation
- Introductory chapter dissertation
People Berg

Inequality of happiness in nations

Description Analysis of dispersion of happiness in nations
Output 2007 none
Planning 2008 Book on the basis of earlier Special Issue of JOHS
People Kalmijn, Ott, Veenhoven

Governance and happiness

Description Effects of government on happiness
Output 2007 Paper on Happiness and Government effectiveness
Presentation at ISQOLS conference
Planning 20078

Publication of the above paper in English and Dutch
Paper on happiness and Size of government

People Ott, Veenhoven

Trend of happiness in nations

Description Development of happiness over time. Is life getting better or worse?
Output 2007 Update TrendReports
Planning 2008 Update TrendReports
People Veenhoven, Wartena

Gender-inequality and happiness in nations

Description Does women's emancipation add to greater happiness of a greater number?
Output 2007 Revision of paper on gender differences in happiness around the world
Thesis on trend in gender difference in happiness in EU
Planning 2008 Publication of article and short research note
People Blokzijl, Boulsums


Preventive health care and happiness

Description Happiness appears to lengthen life. What are the consequences of that finding for preventive health care?
Output 2007 Publication article: 'Healthy Happiness' in Journal of Happiness Studies
Grant for intervention study obtained from ZonMw
Planning 2008 Start of intervention studies. See 'Trainings for happiness'
People Bergsma, Veenhoven


Mental health care and happiness in nations

Description Relation between supply of mental health care and outcome in average happiness
Output 2007 Bachelor thesis
Planning 2008 Journal article
People Touburg (student), Veenhoven

Local happiness

Description Do local conditions affect happiness? If so, how? 
Output 2007 Paper 'Happiness in the Harbour' (Ouweneel)
Paper: 'Happiness in Shrinking cities' (Delken)
Thesis: 'Happiness and city size' (VanDijk)
Planning 2008 Publication of the above papers
Short research note about city size
People Ouweneel, Delken (student), VanDijk (student), Veenhoven

Livability of old age homes

Description What kind of home produce most happy life years for comparable residents?
Output 2007 Report of a p ilot measurement of happiness using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM)
Application for follow-up study on interviewer effect
Planning 2008 Assessment of interviewer effect in ESM: assesment using face-to-face interviews compared to assesment with palmtop computers
People DeMan, Ott, Veenhoven

Section 3

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.

Self-help and happiness

Description Do self-help books help? Effect study using internet EMS
Output 2007 Grant from ZonMw obtained
Planning 2008 Start of ZonMw study
People Bergsma


Trainings for happiness

Description Do trainings that promise greater happiness really add to happiness? .
Output 2007 Grant from ZonMw for effect study using internet DRM foolow-up over 5 years
Planning 2008 Start of follow-up on training for retirement
People Bergsma, Veenhoven


Lifestyle and happiness

Description What life-styles yield most happiness for what people? Focus on time use.
Output 2007 Literature review (Wetstein)
Cross-sectional analysis of marketing dataset (Wetstein)
Pilot of follow-up study on activities and happiness in old age, using internet Day Recal Method (DRM)
Planning 2008 End report of above cross-sectional study (Thesis)
Interim report on DRM follow-up study among senior students
People Vermeulen (RISBO), Veenhoven, Wetstein

Long-term effects of major life-choices on happiness

Description What ways of life yield most happiness for what people? Focus on major choices such as having children, emigration and early retirement.
Output 2007 Analysis of effects of early retirement in German Socio Economic Panel (Bouissaghouane)
Advise for large scale DRM follow-up studies among readers of a newspaper and clients of a health insurance company
Planning 2008 End report of follow-up study on early retirement (Thesis)
Start of large scale DRM follow-up studies
People Bergsma, Bouissaghouane, Veenhoven

Practice of happiness advice

Description What is advised in advisory books on happiness? How effective are these recommendations?
Output 2007 Special issue for JOHS accepted
Planning 2008 Publication of above issue
Start of empirical studies on effectiveness of reading self-help books and trainings
People Berg, Bergsma, Veenhoven

Evidence based happiness advice

Description What ways of life have appeared to be most satisfying for people like you? Stock taking of the available information
Output 2007 Start of several follow-up studies (above)
Entering of available findings in World Database of Happiness
Planning 2008 Exploratory inventarization
People Bergsma, Veenhoven


Section 4

Disturbed Happiness

Description What mental disturbances interfere with happiness and which do not?
Analysis of NEMIZIS data set
Output 2007 Paper
Planning 2008 Publication
People Bergsma

Theories of happiness

Description Review of theories about happiness: mental proces, functions, determinants and consequences. Assesment of fit with the available data
Output 2007

Publication of paper:
- 'Sociological Theories of happiness'
Revision of paper:
- 'Sociology's Blind Eye for happiness'
Preparation of paper:
- 'How do we assess how happy we are'

Planning 2008 Publication of the above papers
People Veenhoven

Meta-analysis of empirical happiness research

Description Quantitative systhesis of research findings on happiness, using data available in the World Database of Happiness, collection of Correlational Findings
Output 2007


Planning 2008 Exploratory analysis of available data on age and education
People VandeVooren, Veenhoven


Section 5


Name job status fte
Maarten Berg (drs) data analysis AIO 0,4
Anneke Blok                                      documentalist volunteer 0,1
Cunie Boelhouwer documentalist volunteer 0,2
Alexandra Booij (drs) data entry volunteer 0,1
Carla den Buitelaar office management EUR-Socia 0,8
Sasqia Blokzijl-ChinHonFoei (drs) data entry, data analysis NWO 0,4
Mark Chekola (emeritus professor) bibliography, philosophy section volunteer 0,1
Armand Elia data entry volunteer 0,1
Wim Kalmijn (ir) methodology, statistics volunteer 0,1
Hans Mieras (ir) data entry volunteer 0,1
Joop Mulder text processing volunteer 0,4
Fredrik Radema (ir) IT, data entry volunteer 0,1
Winny Oostmeijer documentation volunteer 0,1
Jan Ott (mr drs) data analysis NWO 0,4
Piet Ouweneel (drs) data analysis volunteer 0,1
Ruud Swier data entry volunteer 0,1
Jan VandeVooren (dr) data entry volunteer 0,2
Janna Vande Vooren data entry volunteer 0,2
George VanderPoel (dr MD) data entry volunteer 0,1
Treze VanHecke (mr) data entry volunteer 0,1
Ruut Veenhoven (prof dr) direction, data analysis volunteer 0,8
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
Ems Zuidgeest (MD) documentation volunteer 0,1
TOTAL     6,5


Name Subject

Bachelor students
Giorgio Touburg Happiness and mental health services in nations

Master students
Jenifer Wetsteijn Happiness and life style
Sandy Boulsums Trend happiness: effects of woman emancipation
Maaike Kohlen Happiness of working mothers
Stefan Oosterhof Happiness and time use
Jeroen VandeHeuvel Happiness and living enviroment
Michelle VanVaalen Happiness in Elementary Schools
Minoum Bouissaghouane Happiness and early retirement


Ph D students

Maarten Berg Happiness and society
Ad Bergsma Happiness advice
Anton DeMan Happiness in fiction
Jan Ott Happiness and governance in nations
Piet Ouweneel Local happiness
Ekaterina Uglanova long-term consequences of major choices on happiness

Visiting fellows

Name Institute period
Ekaterina Uglanova School of Economics, Saint Petesrburg, Russia April-July 2007
Mark Chekola Dpt. of Philosophy, Minnesota State Univ, USA October 2007


Office and equipment are provided by the department of sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Most of the staff are volunteers, including Veenhoven after his retirement. Additionally the Dutch science foundation (NWO) pays 0,8 scientific staff (Blokzijl, Ott) and the department of sociology pays 0,5 position for a graduate student (Berg).

Donations can be made to a special Support Fund for the World Database of Happiness that is adminstered by Erasmus University's Trustfund. The goal of the fund is to promote the maintenance, updating and scientific use of the collections.

Long-term continuation of the collection is also advanced by the Stichting Onderzoek Geluk (Foundation for Happiness Research)

Program history

Happiness Research Program 2001 (in Dutch)

Happiness Research Program 2003 (in Dutch)

Happiness Research Program 2004 (in Dutch)

Happiness Research Program 2005 (in Dutch)

Happiness Research Program 2006

Happiness Research Program 2007