Happiest People Revisited


Diener, E., Seligman, M. E. P., Choi, H., & Oishi, S. (2018). Happiest people revisited. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 176-184.


In a past Psychological Science article, Diener and Seligman (2002) explored the characteristics of extremely happy individuals and found that strong social relationships characterized the entire group. The study was popular, perhaps because the authors focused on the very happiest people, not merely on correlations across the entire spectrum of subjective well-being. In the current study, we replicated and extended the earlier paper here by examining, in a world sample, the differences between the happiest individuals and unhappy and averagely happy people. We largely replicated earlier findings; basic need fulfillment and social resources were two ingredients for high subjective well- being. Replicating and extending the earlier findings, we found that, compared with the averagely happy people, the happiest people were more likely to come from societies high in subjective well-being and social capital. To achieve very high happiness, it is helpful not only to have desirable personal circumstances, but also to live in a prosperous happy society with strong social support. As in the original study, although a few characteristics seemed virtually necessary for subjective well-being (SWB), no characteristic guaranteed it. We also uncovered variables separating the groups that might be outcomes of SWB, for example, helping others, exercising, and not smoking. 

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