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Greater Happiness for a Greater Number: Did the Promise of Enlightenment Come True?

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  • Ruut Veenhoven

    () (Erasmus University Rotterdam
    North-West University)

Abstract

Abstract In the eighteenth 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 1950–2010 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Ruut Veenhoven, 2017. "Greater Happiness for a Greater Number: Did the Promise of Enlightenment Come True?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 9-25, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:130:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-015-1128-x
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-015-1128-x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert Cummins, 2010. "Subjective Wellbeing, Homeostatically Protected Mood and Depression: A Synthesis," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 1-17, March.
    2. Ed Diener, 1994. "Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 103-157, February.
    3. Kenji Suzuki, 2009. "Are They Frigid to the Economic Development? Reconsideration of the Economic Effect on Subjective Well-being in Japan," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 92(1), pages 81-89, May.
    4. Ruut Veenhoven, 2010. "Life is Getting Better: Societal Evolution and Fit with Human Nature," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 97(1), pages 105-122, May.
    5. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
    6. Ruut Veenhoven, 2005. "Apparent Quality-of-Life in Nations: How Long and Happy People Live," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 71(1), pages 61-86, March.
    7. Dianne van Hemert & Fons van de Vijver & Ype Poortinga, 2002. "The Beck Depression Inventory as a Measure of Subjective Well-Being: A Cross-National Study," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 257-286, September.
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