Can happiness be measured?

I can’t see how anyone can measure happiness accurately. Any result would depend on the number of people questioned; the insightfulness of the questions asked; the sex, age, attractiveness and disposition of the person presenting the questionnaire; how the person being questioned happens to feel at the time; and the cultural view of happiness, just for a start. We would also need to compare people from different cultures. Aside from the translation problems a Chinese person might, for example, think of ‘happiness’ in a different way, and so give a different answer. In some Asian cultures it is considered rude to speak of oneself as happy or unhappy.

And from what I gather, brain scans only measure our temporary happiness, the happiness derived from experiencing pleasure.

Even if we could accurately measure happiness, we would need to measure a person’s level many times, over a lengthy period of time, to come to any conclusions.

The psychologists might find trends in their findings, but I have doubts about their conclusions. That’s not to say my assumptions and claims are any better, but until an indisputably accurate measurement of true happiness is found, I’m avoiding statistics.

That said, I should not dismiss so easily the work of brilliant academics. In ‘The Science of Well-being‘ (Editors Huppert, Baylis & Keverne) the contributors do come to valuable conclusions, so their measurements of happiness must have some merit. But I am not trying to ascertain which conditions are conducive to happiness; I’m trying to ascertain how a person can increase their happiness irrespective of the conditions. To be accurate in my claims I would still need a satisfactory way of measuring happiness and of testing those claims. I don’t have one. That is a weakness in my work. Until happiness is properly measurable, it is a weakness in everyone’s work.

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