CAGE report: understanding happiness


The data on happiness come from self-reports of individuals’ feelings of well-being, and each respondent is free to define happiness as she or he sees it. It would be reasonable to suppose, therefore, that combining the answers of respondents to obtain, say, an average societal value, would be meaningless.

But, in fact, there is now substantial agreement among most social scientists that such averages are meaningful. A major reason for this consensus is that people worldwide respond quite similarly when asked what is important for their happiness. It is the personal concerns that take up most of the time in most people’s lives everywhere—making a living, family, health, and work—that are most important for happiness. These are the things they care most about, and which they think they have some ability to control.

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