The philosophy of wellbeing
Philosophers use ‘wellbeing’ to refer to what makes your life go well for you, and ‘happiness’ to refer to a positive psychological state. Wellbeing and happiness need not be the same thing, hence the common expression ‘there’s more to life than happiness’.
- Moorhouse, F., Plant, M., and Houlden, T. (2020). An introduction to the philsophy of wellbeing
Two entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia for Philosophy.
The measurement of wellbeing
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:
- Dolan, P. and White, M. (2007). How Can Measures of Subjective Well-Being Be Used to Inform Public Policy? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(1), 71–85
- Diener, E., Inglehart, R. and Tay, L. (2013). Theory and Validity of Life Satisfaction Scales. Social Indicators Research, 112(3), 497–527
Distinguishing between the “remembering self” and the “experiencing self”:
- Kahneman, D. and Riis, J. (2005). Living, and thinking about it: Two perspectives on life. In F. Huppert, B. Keverne, & N. Baylis (eds.), The Science of Well-being. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press
A sceptical take on using happiness measures:
- White, M. (2015). The Problems with Measuring and Using Happiness for Policy Purposes. Mercatus Research, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Arlington, VA
A paper suggesting people make global comparison, suggesting people might be using roughly the same criteria to judge their lives:
- Becchetti, L., Castriota, S., Corrado, L. and Giachin Ricca, E. (2013). Beyond the Joneses: Inter-Country Income Comparisons and Happiness. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 45, 187–95
A paper comparing Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) to life satisfaction scores:
- Dolan, P. and Metcalfe, R. (2012). Valuing Health: A Brief Report on Subjective Well-Being versus Preferences. Medical Decision Making, 32(4), 578–82
An advanced paper on cardinality:
- van Praag, B. M. S. (1993). The Relativity of the Welfare Concept. In: M. Nussbaum and A. Sen (eds.) The Quality of Life. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press
An advanced paper on how much difference it makes if you interpret life satisfaction scores as ordinal vs cardinal:
- Ferrer‐i‐Carbonell, A. and Frijters, P. (2004). How Important Is Methodology for the Estimates of the Determinants of Happiness? The Economic Journal
Determinants of life satisfaction
- The Origins of Happiness : The Science of Well-Being over the Life Course
Andrew Clark, Sarah Flèche, Richard Layard, Nattavudh Powdthavee and George Ward. 2018.
- Dolan, P., Peasgood, T. and White, M. (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, 29(1), 94–122
- Luhmann, M., Hofmann, W., Eid, M. and Lucas, R. E. (2012). Subjective Well-Being and Adaptation to Life Events: A Meta-Analysis on Differences Between Cognitive and Affective Well-Being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 592–615
- Diener, E., Lucas, R. E. and Napa-Scollon, C. (2009). Beyond the Hedonic Treadmill: Revising the Adaptation Theory of Well-Being. In: E. Diener (ed.) The Science of Well-being. Springer
A paper on the fact we’re not very good at predicting how we or others will feel:
- Wilson, T. D. and Gilbert, D. T. (2005). Affective Forecasting. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(3), 131–34
- Alderson, A. S. and Katz-Gerro, T. (2016). Compared to Whom? Inequality, Social Comparison, and Happiness in the United States. Social Forces, 95(1), 25–54
- Yudkin, D. A., Liberman, N., Wakslak, C. and Trope, Y. (2016). Measuring Up to Distant Others: Expanding and Contracting the Scope of Social Comparison. SSRN Electronic Journal
The Easterlin Paradox
The Easterlin Paradox is the finding that raising GDP doesn’t raise aggregate life satisfaction over the long-term.
- Stevenson, B. and Wolfers, J. (2008). Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox. Cambridge, MA.
- Easterlin, R.A. et al. (2010). The Happiness-Income Paradox Revisited. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(52), 22463–68
- Easterlin, R. A. (2016). Paradox Lost? SSRN Electronic Journal
Poverty, income, and life satisfaction
- Biswas-Diener, R. and Diener, E. (2001). Making the Best of a Bad Situation: Satisfaction in the Slums of Calcutta. Social Indicators Research, 55(3), 329–52
- Fleche, S. and Layard, R. (2017). Do More of Those in Misery Suffer from Poverty, Unemployment or Mental Illness? Kyklos, 70(1), 27–41
A study on cash transfers that suggests adaptation and comparison effects:
- Haushofer, J., Reisinger, J. and Shapiro, J. (2015). Your Gain Is My Pain: Negative Psychological Externalities of Cash Transfers, Working Paper.
Another study on cash transfers:
- Haushofer, J. and Shapiro, J. (2016). The Short-Term Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers to the Poor: Experimental Evidence from Kenya. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131(4), 1973–2042
A paper suggesting that making people wealthier didn’t decrease depressive symptoms:
- Green, E. P., Blattman, C., Jamison, J. and Annan, J. (2016). Does Poverty Alleviation Decrease Depression Symptoms in Post-Conflict Settings? A Cluster-Randomized Trial of Microenterprise Assistance in Northern Uganda. Global Mental Health (Cambridge, England)
A paper discussing the fact that China became less satisfied despite economic progress:
- Graham, C., Zhou, S. and Zhang, J. (2017). Happiness and Health in China: The Paradox of Progress. World Development, 96, 231–44
- Thrive: The Power of Evidence-Based Psychological Therapies
Richard Layard and David M. Clark. 2014.
- Uher, R. and Pavlova, B. (2016). Long-Term Effects of Depression Treatment. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3(2), 95–96
- The World Happiness Reports include a global survey and analysis of the state of the world’s happiness.
- The Global Happiness Policy Reports are the state of the art on happiness research applied to policy.
- A happy possibility about happiness (and other subjective) scales
Michael Plant (Wellbeing Research Centre, 2021)
- Can I get a little less life satisfaction please?
Michael Plant (Wellbeing Research Centre, 2020)
- On measuring and maximising what matters
Michael Plant (EAGxAustralia 2019)
- Philosophical issues related to maximising happiness
Michael Plant (Four-part lecture series, Oxford University, 2018)
- What are the best ways to improve world happiness? Michael Plant (EA Global: London 2017)
- How to measure impact, and why we may have all been doing it wrong
Michael Plant (Clearer Thinking, 2021)
- How can we use our resources most effectively to help people feel happier?
Barry Grimes (NexGen Minds, 2022)