Erasmus University Rotterdam, Social Sciences, Department of Sociology

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





Section 1

Collection 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 in this program.

The data collection is free available on the web:

Since its start in 1999, the database attracted 578.760 visitors by 1-8-2008, of which 92.976 in the last year. The number of visits increased 10% during the first half of 2008.

The Database involves the following collections:

Bibliography of Happiness

Description Stores publications that deal with happiness in the sense of life satisfaction. Involves detailed subject classification. Contains currently 5462 publications. Linked to the Directory of Investigators
Output 2008 506 new publications entered
Links to full texts added, mostly using DOI
Links to excerpts of correlational findings added
Re-coding of philosophy section
Planning 2009 Entering about 250 new publications
Completing links to full texts on the website
Revision of subject classification
People Boelhouwer, Blok, Chekola, DenBuitelaar, Mulder, Radema, Veenhoven, Vijverberg, Zuidgeest

Measures of happiness (Item bank)

Description Collection 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 1140 measures that passed a test for face-validity, of which 517 in other languages than English
Output 2008 83 new items entered
83 texts in original languages entred
Planning 2009 Entering about 50 new items
Revision of "Thurstone weights" used for transformation means to range 0-10 (weights assessed in the International Happiness Scale Interval Study)
People Kalmijn, Veenhoven, Vijverberg

Happiness in Nations

Description Collection of research findings on happiness in nations. Presents responses on acceptable questions on happiness in surveys of the general population in nations.The collection can be searched on type of measure, time and nation
Contains currently 3867 findings from 134 nations 1942-2007
Output 2008 553 new findings entered
Update of 8 finding reports on website
Planning 2009

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

People Veenhoven, Wartena

Correlational Findings

Description Collection of crrelational findings on happiness. Research findings are presented in mini-abstracts using standardized terminilogy. Abstracts can be searched on subject, happiness measure, time, nation and public.
Contains now 10.566 findings from 1182 studies in nations
Output 2008 Entered 79 new studies involving 621 findings
Planning 2009 Entering about 100 more studies
Finalizing instruction for excerpters
People Blokzijl, Booij, DenBuitelaar, Elia, Kalmijn, Mieras, Ott, Radema, VandeVooren-Koopman, 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 collections 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 136 nations
Output 2008

30 new nations added, mainly from Gallup World Poll
81 copies provided on request

Planning 2009 Entering data of World Values Survey wave 5, both data on happiness and values
People Veenhoven, Wartena, Wildschut

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 2008 none
Planning 2009 Update to 2008
Addition of time series using Thurstone values obtained from 'Ínternational Happiness scale Interval Study
People Veenhoven, Wartena

International Happines-scale Interval Study

Description Aims at improving thecomparability 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 2008

Paper on research design published (Veenhoven)
Concepts of two methodology papers (Kalmijn)
Studies completed in English (2), Croatian, Romanian, Russian, German, Spanish

Planning 2009

More studies in English (2), German (1). French (1), Hungarian (1), Japanese (1), Polish (1), Turkish (1)
Analysis of the results
Papers on methodology, paper on substantive results

People Hermus (RISBO), Kalmijn, Mulder, Veenhoven

Software development

Description Improvement of database system and website
Output 2008 New counters
Links to full text of sources in bibliography and collections of findings
No progress in hosting at University Library
Planning 2009 Improving accesibility of findings for search engines
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 8678 names and about 4000 recent adresses. Available on request for scientific purposes.
Output 2008 456 new names and adresses entered
Planning 2009 Entering about 250 new names
Promotion mailing to all authors
People Boelhouwer, Blok, DenBuitelaar, Vijverberg

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 2008

- Revision of paper 'Modernity and happiness in nations'
- Concept paper 'Death penalty and happiness in nations'
- Concept paper 'Religion and happiness in nations'

Planning 2009 - Publication of above papers
- Introductory chapter dissertation
People Berg, Veenhoven

Inequality of happiness in nations

Description Analysis of dispersion of happiness in nations
Output 2008 none
Planning 2009

Book on the basis of earlier Special Issue of JOHS
Paper 'Winners and Loosers of modernization' (basis thesis Boulsums)

People Kalmijn, Ott, Veenhoven

Governance and happiness

Description Effects of government on happiness
Output 2008 Revision of paper 'Happiness and Government effectiveness'
Concept paper 'Happiness and Size of government'
Planning 2009

Publication of the above papers

People Ott, Veenhoven

Gender-inequality and happiness in nations

Description Does women's emancipation add to greater happiness of a greater number?
Output 2008 Thesis 'Woman emancipation and happiness'(Raaijmakers)
Thesis 'Happiness of women in male jobs' (Kohlen)
Reseach synthesis 'Happiness of working mothers'(Blok)
Planning 2009 Revision of paper on gender differences in happiness around the world (Blokzijl)
People Blokzijl, Kohlen, Raaijmakers, Veenhoven


Preventive health care and happiness

Description Happiness appears to lengthen life. What are the consequences of that finding for preventive health care?
Output 2008 Publication article: 'Healthy Happiness' in Journal of Happiness Studies
Planning 2009 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 2008 none
Planning 2009 Article 'Mental health care and happiness in nations'
People Touburg (student), Veenhoven

Local happiness

Description Do local conditions affect happiness? If so, how? 
Output 2008 revision p aper 'Happiness in Rotterdam' (Ouweneel)
Publication: 'Happiness in Shrinking cities' (Delken)
Thesis: 'Happiness of aged people and city size' (VandeHeuvel)
Thesis: 'Happiness and service level in parts of Rotterdam'(vdLinden)
Planning 2009 Publication 'Happiness in Rotterdam'
Short research note about city size
People Ouweneel, Delken (student), VandeHeuvel (student),VandeLinden e.a. (students), Veenhoven

Livability of old age homes

Description What kind of home produce most happy life years for comparable residents?
Output 2008 none
Planning 2009 instigating research
People Ott, Veenhoven

Happiness and education

Description What education creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number?
Output 2008 Literature review 'Happiness Education' (Emad Samuel)
Empirical study 'Happiness in elementary schools' (VanVaalen)
Planning 2009 ?
People Emad Samuel (visiting scholar), VanVaalen (student)

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.


Happiness trainings

Description Do trainings that promise greater happiness really add to happiness? .
Output 2008 Start of 3 effect studies using internet DRM follow-up over 5 years (financed by ZonMw, coordination Trimbos Institute)
- Effect of 'Art-of -Living' game on the happiness of elderly
- Effect of pre-retirement training on the happiness of elderly
- Effect of lessons on happiness on the happiness of secundary school pupils
Planning 2009 Analysis of baseline data
People Bergsma, Veenhoven


Lifestyle and happiness

Description What life-styles yield most happiness for what people? Focus on time use.
Output 2008 Thesis 'Happiness and life style' (Wetstein)
Thesis 'Happiness and Time use (Oosterhof)
Research synthesis: 'Happiness and Time use' (VandenBerg)
Concept paper 'Happiness and Leisure activity (Nawijn)
Concept paper 'Happiness and mood over the holliday'(Nawijn)
First interim report on HOVO effect study; follow-up study on activities and happiness in old age, using internet Day Recal Method (DRM)
Planning 2009 Second iInterim report on DRM follow-up study among senior students
Publication papers Nawijn
People Nawijn, VandenBerg (student), Oosterhof (student), 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 2008 Preparation for two large scale DRM follow-up studies
- among readers of a newspaper
- among clients of a health insurance company
Planning 2009 End report of follow-up study on early retirement (Thesis Boouissaaghouane)
Start of internet follow-up study among readers of newspaper (Bergsma)
Report of pilot among employees of health insurance company (VanHerpen)
People Bergsma, Bouissaghouane, VanHerpen (RISBO), Veenhoven

Happiness advice

Description What is advised in advisory books on happiness? How effective are these recommendations?
Output 2008 Publication special issue 'Happiness advice' Journal of happiness Studies
Planning 2009 Start of effect studies. See above 'Training, Lifestyle and Life-choice
People Berg, Bergsma, Veenhoven

Section 4

Happiness of the disturbed

Description What mental disturbances interfere with happiness and which do not?
Analysis of NEMIZIS data set
Output 2008 Revision of paper 'Happiness of the disturbed'
Planning 2009 Publication of the above paper
People Bergsma (in cooperation with DeGraaf Trimbos Institute)

Theories of happiness

Description Review of theories about happiness: mental proces, functions, determinants and consequences. Assesment of fit with the available data
Output 2008

Publication paper: 'Sociological Theories of happiness'
Publication paper: 'How do we assess how happy we are'
Publication paper: 'Wellbeing in and of nations
Concept paper: 'How universal is happiness/

Planning 2009 Revision of paper: 'Sociology's Blind Eye for happiness'
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 2008

Exploratory analysis of available data on age and education

Planning 2009 Publication?
People Emad, VandeVooren, Veenhoven

Section 5


Name job status fte
Maarten Berg (drs) data analysis AIO 0,2
Anneke Blok                                      documentalist volunteer 0,1
Cunie Boelhouwer documentalist volunteer 0,2
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
Jan VandeVooren (dr) data entry volunteer 0,2
Janna Vande Vooren-Koopman 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
Stanny Vijverberg-VanLeeuwen data entry volunteer 0,1
Paul Wartena (drs) data entry volunteer 0,2
Gerard Wildschut documentation volunteer 0,1
Ems Zuidgeest (MD) documentation volunteer 0,1
Teun Zijlmans data entry volunteer 0,2
TOTAL     5,6


Name Subject

Bachelor students
Devorah van den Berg happiness and time use
Lylette vanderLinden, Salome Aussen Happiness and service level in parts of Rotterdam

Master students
Maaike Kohlen Happiness of working mothers
Stefan Oosterhof Happiness and time use
Jeroen VandeHeuvel Happiness and living enviroment
Michelle VanVaalen Happiness in Elementary Schools
Ellen Raaijmakers Happiness and woman emancipation
Minoum Bouissaghouane Happiness and early retirement


Ph D students

Maarten Berg Happiness and society
Ad Bergsma Happiness advice
Wim Kalmijn Quantification of inequality in happiness
Jeroen Nawijn Happiness and Leisure
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
dr. Emad Samuel Sohag University, Dpt of Education, Egypt June 2008-March 2009
prof. Mark Chekola Dpt. of Philosophy, Minnesota State Univ, USA October 2008
Maja Tadic (MA) Institute of social sciences, Zagreb, Croatia October 2008-February 2009


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

Happiness Research Program 2008