Which formula for national happiness?

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The World Happiness Report is published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and contains an international ranking of national average happiness, as measured by surveys of personal life evaluations. It also contains an analysis which tries to explain the happiness figures from more than 150 countries using data on six key variables. That analysis assumes the factors combine in an additive manner and therefore operate independently of each other. By contrast, we explore a multiplicative model, which allows for interactivity or synergy between factors, as well as the possibility of diminishing marginal benefit at higher levels of achievement. We find that this model provides a better fit to the data and is therefore superior in its explanatory power. The implication for policy-makers is that they should focus on improving those factors which are the lowest for their nation as this will provide greater relative benefits to subjective well-being. At an individual level this means focusing on improving conditions for those who are experiencing the lowest levels of well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalSocio-Economic Planning Sciences
Early online date23 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2019


  • Happiness
  • Happiness index
  • Multiplicative model
  • Subjective well-being


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