The books and articles listed below will help you to deepen your understanding of what happiness is, how to measure it, what affects it, and what can be done to improve it.
Books and policy reports
The latest book explaining how much different things affect life satisfaction. Very strongly recommended.
If you want to learn about the treatment of mental health and the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
The Global Happiness Policy Reports are the state of the art on happiness research applied to policy.
The World Happiness Report, produced annually, is a global survey and analysis of the state of the world’s happiness.
Two entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy.
Philosophers use ‘well-being’ to discuss the thing that makes your life go well for you, and ‘happiness’ to refer to a psychological state. Well-being and happiness need not be the same thing, hence the common (but mistaken) expression ‘there’s more to life than happiness’.
A book-length document, “these guidelines represent the first attempt to provide international recommendations on collecting, publishing, and analysing subjective well-being data.”
Two general discussions of the measures:
Distinguishing between the “remembering self” (abstract, gist attribution of SWB) and the “experiencing self” (actual affective experience, from moment to moment).
A sceptical take on using happiness measures.
Paper suggesting people make global comparison, suggesting people might be using roughly the same criteria to judge their lives.
Paper comparing Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) to life satisfaction scores.
Advanced paper on cardinality (not recommended as initial reading).
The problem of cardinality is whether increasing my happiness by one unit, i.e. from 8/10 to 9/10, is the same as increasing yours by one unit. A cardinal scale is one where the units are equal distance apart, e.g. to be 1cm taller is the same increase no matter how tall you are. An ordinal scale is a ranking, e.g. Adam throws further than Ben, who is throws further than Charlie. Many worry happiness measures are only ordinal, which means we can’t work out what maximise happiness: if you know ordering of throwing ability is A > B > C you don’t know whether B and C together throw further than A alone. Economists have tended to think happiness comparisons are ordinal, which means we can’t say anything useful about them. Van Praag suggests they’re better understood as cardinal in virtue of how we use language.
Advanced paper seeing how much difference it makes if you interpret life satisfaction scores as ordinal vs cardinal.
Determinants of life satisfaction
The Easterlin Paradox
The Easterlin Paradox is the finding that raising GDP doesn’t raise aggregate life satisfaction over the long-term.
Poverty and life satisfaction
A study on Give Directly that suggests adaptation and comparison effects.
Another study on Give Directly.
Paper suggesting that making people wealthier didn’t decrease depressive symptoms.
Paper discussing the fact that China became less satisfied despite economic progress.
Study shows the effects of psychotherapy last five years
Paper on the fact we’re not very good at predicting how we or others will feel.