Happiness has its benefits

The reason I know my Youth has been spent,
Is my get-up-and-go has got-up-and-went!
From I am fine, how are you?

Happiness has its benefits. Apparently, it has enough pull to attract scholars like Adrian White, from the University of Leicester School of Psychology, who is trying to create a “A Global Projection of Subjective Wellbeing,” or, simply, to find out how happy people are.

Is “wellbeing” the same as “happiness”?

Some dictionary definitions hint that wellbeing relates to someone’s “physical and mental soundness“; while others consider wellbeing as “a contented state of being happy and healthy and prosperous“; Throughout hstory, people claimed the right to happiness as their own – according to the American Declaration of Independence (1776) citizen are entitled to “certain inalienable Rights” such as “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Often, happiness is a topic for research within Positive Psychology, defined as the study of “the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” Hold on, I hear you say, first Happiness, and now Virtues!? The inclusion of virtues unsettled me, as well, since we’re talking about ‘purely’ moral issues.

Adrian White’s study skirts moralistic pitfalls by linking his work specifically to the concept of subjective wellbeing (SWB), generally defined as “the scientific name for how people evaluate their lives“, the emphasis here is on the fact that people evaluate their own life (hence ‘subjective wellbeing’), using specific criteria such as self-satisfaction and fulfilment, life domain (such as marriage and work,) and emotions (both positive and negative.)

Not far, thematically, from White’s work is The Happy Planet Index (HPI), a system that links wellbeing to ecological efficiency. You can calculate your own HPI by answering questions about your country, habitat (detached house or bungalow vs. a semi-detached house or large terraced, etc.), whether you walk or drive to work, waste production, eating habit and health. The outcome is a comparative listing of your Happy Planet Index vs. the average HPI for all responses so far.

So, how did I do?

My personal Happy Planet Index (HPI) is 29.5, which is similar to that of Lithuania; this is below the world average of 46. My life expectancy (54.5) is above average for my gender and my country, but below the average (80.7). My ecological footprint is 4.62 global hectares, or 2.57 planets. This is equivalent to the average in Austria, Hong Kong or Netherlands. My carbon footprint is 1.82 global hectares, or 1.01 planets. This is about the same as the average for my country (1.37 gHa). I scored well on life satisfaction 7, which is about average for many Western countries, including the UK, Spain and Italy. Worldwide, 58% of respondents in the World Values Survey reported a life satisfaction of 7 or lower. On the wellbeing index, I’m more optimistic than the average (7.58 vs. 6.05), my sense of personal functioning is average (6.55 vs. 618); my social feelings (community and self) are way above average (7.52 vs. 5.69) while my social functioning is average.