The global happiness research aiming to make the world smile (and live longer)

The global happiness research aiming to make the world smile (and live longer)

Check out this great article/interview with positive psychology and happiness world leader…Ed Diener


What lies beneath the ecstasy and the heartache of love? For Professor Ed Diener—aka Dr Happiness—the experience of joy is a science that can be observed, measured and distilled. He's surveying millions of people world wide to find out how to make us all happier and healthier.

Psychologist Ed Diener is considered to be the foremost expert on the science of happiness. The Smiley Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois (named after Joseph R Smiley, not the expression), Professor Diener studies happiness on a global scale as a senior scientist with the Gallup Organisation.

Gallup’s World Poll investigates international levels of happiness through a huge worldwide study, which Professor Diener describes as ‘the first representative sample of humanity’.

The survey encompasses over a million people from 160 countries (unfortunately the Vatican and North Korea didn’t make the cut).

‘We’ve learned a great deal about the universals,' Professor Diener says. 'We find for example that basic needs like having enough food are important across the world—that’s not surprising. But we also find social things [are important] like being respected and being able to trust other people.’

The Scandinavian countries—in particular Denmark—top the list. Professor Diener says this is because Scandinavians are rich, value equality, and tend to trust each other. At the other end of the scale are the war-torn Middle Eastern countries and areas of poverty and hunger in Africa.  Latin American countries like Costa Rica rate very highly.  Australia is in the top 15 out of the 160 countries surveyed.

But can you really objectively measure happiness, and if so, how do you do it? Professor Diener says that while people are often sceptical of research attempting to measure joy and satisfaction, there is far more credulity regarding measures of depression. He says happiness—or more precisely subjective wellbeing—is typically experienced in two different ways.  One is the satisfaction we feel in our lives and the other is related to our emotions.

'We made up scales and we spent about ten years validating these scales and testing these scales,' he says. 'We would take different physiological measures like brainwave measures that correlate with happiness and see how they correlated with the scales.  We’d ask family and friends how happy the person was, we would do memory tasks—how many good things they can remember from their life in a time period versus bad things.  We would look and see how much they smiled every day.’

‘I would say [these measures] do a pretty good job of getting us within the ball park of people’s wellbeing.’

His happiness research over the years has uncovered some interesting trends, including work he's done with the father of positive psychology Martin Seligman on what it takes to be extremely happy…

…keep reading HERE