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28 Jan 2011 | Scienceline
Ludwig Wittgenstein, a famous 20th century philosopher, was
miserable all his life. Depressed and anxious, he once wrote in his
diary, "There is no happiness for me; no joy ever." Yet minutes
before he died, he muttered: "Tell them I've had a wonderful
The concept of happiness is universally understood, yet escapes
all comprehension. Can someone really be both unhappy everyday and
happy over a lifetime? Does the notion of happiness change
throughout the world, between communities, between people? Most
importantly, do we have any choice in the matter?
Recent research in psychology, economics and public policy may
help unravel this tangled knot of questions.
"Objective choices make a difference to happiness over and above
genetics and personality," said Bruce Headey, a psychologist at
Melbourne University in Australia. Headey and his colleagues
analyzed annual self-reports of life satisfaction from over 20,000
Germans who have been interviewed every year since 1984. He
compared five-year averages of people's reported life satisfaction,
and plotted their relative happiness on a percentile scale from 1
to 100. Heady found that as time went on, more and more people
recorded substantial changes in their life satisfaction. By 2008,
more than a third had moved up or down on the happiness scale by at
least 25 percent, compared to where they had started in 1984.
Read article here
Action for Happiness
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