Erasmus University Rotterdam, Social Sciences, Department of Sociology






Section 1

Concept, measurement, determinants and consequences. Theories and empirical findings.

Conceptions of the good life

Description Conceptual analysis
Output 2009

Publication 'Well-being in nations and well-being of nations: Is there a conflict between individual and society?'(Social Indicators Research)
Concept paper 'Capabilities and Happiness'
Update paper 'The four qualities of Life

Planning 2010 Publication 'Capabilities and happiness'
Publication updated "The four qualities of Life
People Veenhoven

Measurement of happiness

Description Techniques for measuring subjective enjoyment of life
Output 2009

First analysis of data gathered with DRM application 'Yesterday's Diary' in HOVO-effect study.

Improvement of Yesterday's Diary for application in 'GeluksWijzer' project
Continuation of International Happiness Scale Interval Study
Planning 2010 Dissertation Kalmijn
First analysis of data GeluksWijzer project
Publication paper 'Measures of Gross national happiness' in Spanish
People Kalmijn, Oerlemans, Tadic, Veenhoven


International Happines-scale Interval Study

Description Improving the 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 2009

Paper on research design published (Veenhoven)
Concepts of two methodology papers (Kalmijn)
Studies completed in Arabic, Hungarian

Planning 2010

More studies in English (2), German (1). French (2), Icelandic, Farsi (Iran) Italian, Norvegian, Polish (1), Spanish, Turkish (1)
Analysis of the results
Papers on methodology, paper on substantive results (Kalmijn)
Dissertation Kalmijn

People Hermus (RISBO), Kalmijn, Mulder, Veenhoven


Meta-analysis of empirical happiness research

Description Synthesis of research findings on happiness, using data available in the World Database of Happiness, collection of Correlational Findings
Output 2009

Exploratory analysis of available data on happiness and education

Planning 2010 Analysis of availabale data on income, employment and age by psychology students (Wetsteijn)
People VandeVooren, Veenhoven, Wetsteijn

Theory of happiness

Description Review of theories about happiness: mental process, functions, determinants and consequences. Assesment of fit with the available data
Output 2009

Publication papers Veenhoven
- 'How do we assess how happy we are?' (Bookchapter
- 'Well-being in nations and well-being of nations: Is there a conflict between individual and society?'(Social Indicators Research)

Concept paper 'Cognition and Affect in appraisal of overall happiness' (Veenhoven with Rojas)
Planning 2010 Publication paper 'How universal is happiness?'
Publication paper 'Cognition and Affect'
Revision of paper: 'Sociology's Blind Eye for happiness'
People Veenhoven

Reviews of happiness research

Description Review studies
Output 2009

Book review by Ott
Planning 2010 Start Handbook of Happiness (Veenhoven editor)
People Ott, Veenhoven


Section 2

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 608.760 visitors by 1-9-2009. The estimated number of visits in 2009 is 80.000, which is about the same as in 2008. Hits in Google Scholar: 878 (Advanced search on full name)

The Database involves the following collections:

Bibliography of Happiness

Description Publications on happiness in the sense of subjective enjoyment of life
Involves detailed subject classification. Contains currently 5814 publications. Linked to the Directory of Investigators
Also linked to the collection of Correlational Findings
Output 2009 352 new publications entered
Links to full texts added, mostly using DOI
Links to excerpts of correlational findings added
Re-coding of subject classification
Addition of key-words
Planning 2010

Entering about 250 new publications
Completing links to full texts on the website
Links to collection of Correlational findings

People Boelhouwer, Blok, Chekola, DenBuitelaar, Mulder, Radema, Veenhoven, 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 554 in other languages than English
Output 2009 79 new items entered
47 texts in original languages entred
Planning 2010 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, Mulder, Veenhoven

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 4242 findings from 134 nations 1942-2009
Output 2009 375 new findings entered
Update of 8 finding reports on website
Planning 2010

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

People Elia, Veenhoven, Wartena

Correlational Findings

Description Collection of correlational 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 11.251 findings from 1319 studies
Output 2009 Entered 137 new studies involving 685 findings
Finding reports in Bibliogrpahy
Planning 2010

Entering about 100 more studies
Finalizing instruction for excerpters
Link to Bibliography
Start of software redesign, allowing direct entry in MySQL

People Blokzijl, DenBuitelaar, Elia, Huijsmans, Kalmijn, Mieras, Ott, Radema, VandeVooren-Koopman, VanderPoel, VanHecke, Veenhoven, Wartena, Zijlmans

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 2009

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

Planning 2010 Entering data on values in nations taken from World Values Survey wave 5
People Elia, Veenhoven, Wartena, Wildschut

Trends in nations database

Description SPSS data file of trend data in nations
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 2009 Update to 2008
Planning 2010

Update to 2009
Addition of time series using Thurstone values obtained from 'Ínternational Happiness scale Interval Study
Addition of timeseries in special publics in nations (e.g. males and females)

People Veenhoven, Wartena

Software development

Description Improvement of database system and website
Output 2009 Cleaning-up of Access databases
Improvements of website
Improvement of searcheability
Planning 2010 Redesign of the datasystem (in cooperation with University Library)
People Radema, Veenhoven

Directory of investigators on happiness

Description Names of investigators on happiness
Part of the Bibliography of Happiness and links to publications. Contains currently 8961 names and about 4000 recent addresses. Available on request for scientific purposes.
Output 2009 283 new names and adresses entered
Planning 2010 Entering about 250 new names
Promotion mailing to all authors
People Boelhouwer, Blok, DenBuitelaar

Section 3

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

Question How can we create greater happiness for a greater number?
Feasibility of rule-utilitarianism
Output 2009

Papers by Berg
- Revision of paper 'Modernity and happiness in nations'
- Concept paper 'Death penalty and happiness in nations'
- Concept paper 'Religion and happiness in nations'
- Revision paper 'Income-inequality and happiness in nations'(with Veenhoven)

Bachelor thesis Julia Propp (Humbold University Berlin) 'Happiness and Welfare State'
Master thesis Zijlmans (Utrecht University) 'Work involvement in the valuation of unemployment
Papers by Veenhoven
- Greater happiness for a greater number: Is that possible and desirable? (published in Ethiek en Maatschappij)
- various shorter versions
Papers Ott
- 'Happiness and Government effectiveness' accepted for publication in Journal of Happiness Studies
- 'Geluk en Politiek' gepubliceerd in Ethiek en Maatschappij
- Concept paper 'Ethics of happiness' for special issue on utilitarianism Journal of Happiness Studies
Planning 2010

Dissertation Berg
Publication paper 'Income-inequality and happiness in nations'

Paper on the basis of "Propp's thesis
Paper on the basis of Zijlman's thesis
Concept paper 'Happiness and Size of government'
Concept dissertation
People Berg, Ott, Propp, Veenhoven, Zijlmans


Trend of happiness in nations

Question Is life getting better or worse? Are we on the right track?
Output 2009 Paper 'Happiness and modernity' (Veenhoven)
Concept paper 'Happiness and cultural conflict' (Veenhoven with VanAchteren)
Update TrendReports on website
Planning 2010 Paper 'Winners and loosers of post-modernity' (Veenhoven with Boelsums)
Publication paper 'Is life getting better?'(update earlier publication Veenhoven)
Update TrendReports
People Veenhoven, Wartena

Inequality of happiness in nations

Question What determines dispersion of happiness in nations?
Output 2009 Revision paper 'Income inequality and happiness in nations (mentioned above)
Planning 2010

Paper 'Winners and Loosers of modernization' (basis thesis Boulsums)
Paper on role of government in reducing inequality in happiness
Start-up of book of collected papers

People Kalmijn, Ott, Veenhoven

Gender-inequality and happiness in nations

Question Does women's emancipation add to happiness?
Output 2009 Paper 'Happiness of working mothers: a research synthesis' (Blokzijl)
Master thesis 'Happiness and women emancipation'(Raaijmakers)
Planning 2010 Revision of paper on gender differences in happiness around the world (Blokzijl)
Thesis 'Happiness of women in male jobs' (Kohlen)
People Blokzijl, Kohlen, Raaijmakers, Veenhoven


Health care and happiness

Question How can health-care add to happiness?
How can happiness add to public health?
Output 2009 Start of intervention studies. See 'Trainings for happiness'
Planning 2010 Article 'Mental health care and happiness in nations' (Veenhoven on the basis thesis Touburg)
People Bergsma, Veenhoven

Local happiness

Question Do local conditions affect happiness? If so, how? 
Output 2009 none
Planning 2010 Publication 'Happiness in Rotterdam' (Ouweneel)
Short research note about city size
People Ouweneel, Veenhoven

Livability of old age homes

Question What kind of home produce most happy life years?
Output 2009 none
Planning 2010 instigating research
People Ott, Veenhoven

Happiness and education

Question What education creates the greatest happiness?
Output 2009 Literature review 'Happiness Education' (Emad Samuel)
Empirical study 'Happiness in elementary schools' (VanVaalen)
Planning 2010 ?
People Emad Samuel, VandeVooren, VanVaalen

Section 4

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.

Lifestyle and happiness

Question What life-styles yield most happiness for what people?
Focus on time use
Output 2009

3rd year data-gathering in HOVO-effect study (VanHerpen)

Papers presented at Positive Psychology conference
- Happiness and Lifestyle (Veenhoven)
- New insights in happiness using DRM (Oerlemans)
- Work activities and happiness in elderly (Tadic)

Concept article 'Happy Aging' (Oerlemans, Bakker, Veenhoven)

Papers on happiness and leisure by Nawijn
- 'Happiness and Leisure activity
- 'Happiness and mood over the holiday'
Planning 2010 Second interim report on DRM follow-up study among senior students
Publication papers Nawijn
Publication paper 'Happy Ageing'
Publication paper 'Life-Balance and happiness' (book chapter)
People Bakker (PSY), Hermus (RISBO), Nawijn, Oerlemans (RISBO), Tadic (guest), VanHerpen (RISBO), Veenhoven

Long-term effects of major life-choices on happiness

Question What ways of life yield most happiness for what people?
Focus on major choices such as having children, emigration and early retirement.
Output 2009 Start of large scale follow-up studies among clients of a health insurance company: 'GeluksWijzer'. Development of internet tools and try-out
Planning 2010 Launch of the study
Analysis of first results
People Bakker (PSY), Hermus (RISBO), Oerlemans (RISBO), Veenhoven

Happiness advice

Description What is advised in advisory books on happiness?
How effective are these recommendations?
Output 2009 Start of effect studies. See above 'Training, Lifestyle and Life-choice
Planning 2010 ?
People Bergsma, Veenhoven

Happiness trainings

Question Do happiness-training really add to happiness? .
Output 2009 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 lessons on happiness on the happiness of secundary school pupils
Planning 2010 Analysis of baseline data
People Veenhoven

Section 5

Happiness of the disturbed

Description What mental disturbances interfere with happiness and which do not?
Analysis of NEMIZIS data set
Output 2009 Submission of paper 'Happiness of the disturbed'
Planning 2010  
People Bergsma (in cooperation with DeGraaf Trimbos Institute)

Genes and happiness

Description Genetic determinants of happiness
Output 2009 Participation in establishment of GeneQOL consortium
Planning 2010 Publication of a review paper (Veenhoven co-author)
People Veenhoven

Section 6

Staff at September 1st, 2009

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 DenBuitelaar office management volunteer 0,4
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
Ineke Huijsmans (drs) 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
Frank VanderVlugt (ir) data entry volunteer 0,1
Ruut Veenhoven (prof dr) direction, data analysis volunteer 0,8
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


Name Subject

Bachelor students
Loes Clarijn (psychology Sexual satisfaction and happiness in homo- and hetero sexuals
Jamie Olivier (psychology Effecten van vreemdgaan op geluk
Kelly Bergman (psychology) Kinsey revisited: de relatie tussen seksualiteit en geluk
Julia Propp (guest) Happiness and Welfare State

Master students
Maaike Kohlen Happiness of working mothers
Michelle VanVaalen Happiness in Elementary Schools
Ellen Raaijmakers Happiness and woman emancipation
Minoum Bouissaghouane Happiness and early retirement
Teun Zijlmans Happiness, workinvolvement and unemployment (Utrecht University)


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

Visiting fellows

Name Institute period
Emad Samuel (dr) Sohag University, Dpt of Education, Egypt June 2008-March 2009
Mark Chekola (prof, dr) Dpt. of Philosophy, Minnesota State Univ, USA October 2008
Maja Tadic (MA) PhD student, Institute of social sciences, Zagreb, Croatia October 2008-February 2009
October 2009-February 2010
Julia Propp Honours student, Dpt of Economics, Humbold University, Berlin, Germany February-April 2009
Andre van Hoorn (MA) PhD student, University of Nijmegen September-October 2009
Deborah Godoy (dr) Dpt of Psychology, University of Granada, Spain April-June 2009
Ozge Gokdemir (MA) PhD student, University of Istanbul, Turkey July-October 2009
Devrim Dumludag (dr) Post doc, Dpt of Economics, Bosporus University, Turkey July-October 2009
Juliane Ebert Dpt of Psychology, Chemnitz University, Germany October-December 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)


Cooperation In Erasmus University


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

Happiness Research Program 2009