Most people are pretty happy, but there is cultural variation: The Inughuit, the Amish, and the Maasai


Biswas-Diener, R., Vittersø, J., & Diener, E. (2005). Most people are pretty happy, but there is cultural variation: The Inughuit, the Amish, and the Maasai. Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Periodical on Subjective Well-Being, 6(3), 205-226.


Diener and Diener (1996; Psychological Science 7: 181–185) suggested that most people are happy, and offered support for this claim from surveys in industrialized societies. We extend their findings to include people who lead materially simple lives and live in cultures far removed from those of typical survey respondents. We found that the Kenyan Maasai, the United States Amish, and the Greenlandic Inughuit, all reported positive levels of life satisfaction, domain satisfaction, and affect balance (more frequent positive emotions than negative ones). Across satisfaction and affect measures, including methods in addition to global self-reports, our 358 respondents from these cultures were one average, positive on all 54 scales, and significantly above neutral on 53 of them. Across all measures and samples 84% of participants scored above neutral. However, nobody was perfectly happy and satisfied, and the groups reported unique configurations of satisfaction and affect. Although all three groups were high in satisfaction with so cial domains, the Amish reported lower satisfaction with self-related domains, and the Maasai and Inughuit were relatively lower in satisfaction with material domains. All three groups reported frequent positive emotions, but only the Maasai reported frequent feelings of pride. Thus, the fact that most people tend to be moderately happy does not mean that they are ecstatic, or that there is no variation across cultures in happiness.

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