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The state of wellbeing in California

Prof Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford, California State Assembly’s Select Committee on Happiness & Public Policy Outcomes in May.

He shared data on the state of wellbeing in California, including a county-by-county breakdown of the ‘happiest’ counties in the state, as well as answered policymakers’ questions on wellbeing outcomes and the practicalities of creating a wellbeing-first policy approach.

Watch the full hearing on the Centre’s YouTube channel, courtesy of the California State Assembly.

With grateful thanks to Assembly Speaker Emeritus Anthony Rendon for the invitation.

Creating a Psychosocial Safety Climate

Prof Maureen Dollard (University of South Australia) shared findings on building a Psychosocial Safety Climate (PSC) within workplaces at the latest of the Wellbeing Research Centre’s Seminar Series.

Her work examines the value of a PSC to employees and employers alike, and she discusses how the concept is being implemented within regional and national policies to improve wellbeing at work.

Watch the full presentation on the Centre’s YouTube channel.

New report highlights the critical importance of teacher wellbeing for teachers themselves, students and school systems

The International Baccalaureate (IB) commissioned the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford to produce a report on the latest research on teacher wellbeing.

The report, Wellbeing for Schoolteachers, provides the IB, policymakers and educational leaders an understanding of teacher wellbeing, what influences teacher wellbeing, and what evidence-based interventions might be used to improve teacher wellbeing.

One of the most comprehensive reviews of existing research, the findings allowed researchers to develop an evidence-based framework that indicates the drivers of teacher wellbeing. This framework serves as a discussion point for schools to identify drivers that will be most relevant to their school context.

International data shows that teachers report one of the highest levels of occupational stress and burnout on the job compared with other professions. Workload is a prominent factor leading teachers to leave the profession.

This report reveals an increasing body of research indicating that teacher-related factors are some of the most essential elements impacting learning in schools. Importantly, teacher wellbeing has a significant impact on the wellbeing and academic success of students. Research suggests that teacher wellbeing should be one of the first factors schools consider when looking to improve wellbeing across the school community.

Based on the study, some of the key factors that positively impact teacher wellbeing include the following:

  • Teacher voice is crucial in designing any intervention to support wellbeing in a particular school context.
  • Higher levels of teacher wellbeing are associated with positive relationships among colleagues, students, parents, and leadership; a positive school climate; and effective leadership support.
  • Workplace recognition and continuing professional development are positively associated with teacher wellbeing.

Dr. Laura Taylor, Deputy Director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford and Lead Researcher for the project, notes: “As we navigate the crucial intersection of education and wellbeing, the research evidence highlights the profound importance of prioritising teacher wellbeing. By investing in the health and happiness of educators, we not only empower them to thrive but also lay the foundation for a positive ripple effect on students, schools, and the broader education system.”

The full report can be found at wellbeing.hmc.ox.ac.uk/schools.

Wellbeing for Schoolteachers is a companion report to another study by the Wellbeing Research Centre on student wellbeing: Wellbeing in Education in Childhood and Adolescence.

World Happiness Report 2024: Most comprehensive picture yet of happiness across generations

Fresh insights from the World Happiness Report 2024, released today (March 20), paint the richest picture yet of happiness trends across different ages and generations.

The findings, announced today to mark the UN’s International Day of Happiness, are powered by data from the Gallup World Poll and analysed by some of the world’s leading wellbeing scientists.

Experts use responses from people in more than 140 nations to rank the world’s ‘happiest’ countries. Finland tops the overall list for the seventh successive year, though there is considerable movement elsewhere:

  • Serbia (37th) and Bulgaria (81st) have had the biggest increases in average life evaluation scores since they were first measured by the Gallup World Poll in 2013, and this is reflected in climbs up the rankings between World Happiness Report 2013 and this 2024 edition of 69 places for Serbia and 63 places for Bulgaria.
  • The next two countries showing the largest increases in life evaluations are Latvia (46th) and Congo (Brazzaville) (89th), with rank increases of 44 and 40 places, respectively, between 2013 and 2024.

Significantly, the United States of America (23rd) has fallen out of the top 20 for the first time since the World Happiness Report was first published in 2012, driven by a large drop in the wellbeing of Americans under 30. Afghanistan remains bottom of the overall rankings as the world’s ‘unhappiest’ nation.

For the first time, the report gives separate rankings by age group, in many cases varying widely from the overall rankings. Lithuania tops the list for children and young people under 30, while Denmark is the world’s happiest nation for those 60 and older.

In comparing generations, those born before 1965 are, on average, happier than those born since 1980. Among Millennials, evaluation of one’s own life drops with each year of age, while among Boomers life satisfaction increases with age.

Rankings are based on a three-year average of each population’s average assessment of their quality of life1. Interdisciplinary experts from the fields of economics, psychology, sociology and beyond then attempt to explain the variations across countries and over time using factors such as GDP, life expectancy, having someone to count on, a sense of freedom, generosity and perceptions of corruption.

These factors help to explain the differences across nations, while the rankings themselves are based only on the answers people give when asked to rate their own lives.

Prof John F. Helliwell, Emeritus Professor of Economics at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia, and a founding Editor of the World Happiness Report, said: “The broad country coverage and annual surveys of the Gallup World Poll provide an unmatched source of data about the quality of lives all over the globe. There are now enough years of data, going back to 2006, to enable us this year to plausibly separate age and generational patterns for happiness.

“We found some pretty striking results. There is a great variety among countries in the relative happiness of the younger, older, and in-between populations. Hence the global happiness rankings are quite different for the young and the old, to an extent that has changed a lot over the last dozen years.”

Jon Clifton, CEO of Gallup, said Effective policymaking relies on solid data, yet there remains a significant lack of it in various parts of the world. Today’s World Happiness Report attempts to bridge some of these gaps by offering insights into people’s perceptions of life on Earth. It offers more than just national rankings; it provides analytics and advice for evidence-based planning and policymaking. Our role in research on World Happiness is a natural fit with our longstanding mission: providing leaders with the right information about what people say makes life worthwhile.”

The World Happiness Report 2024 also features curated submissions on the theme of happiness across different age groups from experts at the forefront of wellbeing science.

Observing the state of happiness among the world’s children and adolescent population, researchers found that, globally, young people aged 15 to 24 report higher life satisfaction than older adults, but this gap is narrowing in Europe and recently reversed in North America.

Findings also suggest that the wellbeing of 15- to 24-year-olds has fallen in North America, Western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia since 2019 – but in the rest of world it has risen. Overall, though, there is a notable global scarcity of wellbeing data available for children below the age of 15.

Further work examines the relationship between wellbeing and dementia, identified as a significant area of research in a globally aging population.

Researchers highlight not only the impact of dementia on the wellbeing of individuals but also the reverse association: the demonstrable predictive power of higher wellbeing to reduce the risk of developing the disease in later life.

Finally, a team of researchers used a large survey of life satisfaction of older adults in what is now the world’s most populous nation: India. They found that within this older Indian population, increasing age is associated with higher life satisfaction, matching the findings of the global analyses.

These researchers also analysed the complex impact of India’s caste system on wellbeing among older adults, though satisfaction with living arrangements, perceived discrimination and self-rated health emerged as the top three predictors of life satisfaction in this study.

Prof Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Director of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre, Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at Saïd Business School, and an Editor of the World Happiness Report, said “Once again the World Happiness Report uncovers some special empirical insights at the cutting edge of the wellbeing research frontier. Piecing together the available data on the wellbeing of children and adolescents around the world, we documented disconcerting drops especially in North America and Western Europe. To think that, in some parts of the world, children are already experiencing the equivalent of a mid-life crisis demands immediate policy action.

“It is a great privilege and responsibility for our Centre at Oxford to become the next custodian of the World Happiness Report and we’re committed to continuing to give the world the best evidence on the state of global happiness in collaboration with our partners.”

The World Happiness Report is a partnership of Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the WHR’s Editorial Board.

The report is produced under the editorial control of the WHR Editorial Board, formed of John F. Helliwell, Lord Richard Layard, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Lara B. Aknin, and Shun Wang.

Read the report in full at worldhappiness.report.

  1. Nation rankings use data from the Gallup World Poll’s nationally representative samples for the years 2021 to 2023 (inclusive). They are based on answers to the main life evaluation question asked in the poll. This is called the ‘Cantril Ladder’: It asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10 and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale.

Digital wellbeing in the Global South

Dr Sakshi Ghai (Oxford Internet Institute) discussed her current research examining digital harms in the Global South at the latest of the Wellbeing Research Centre’s Seminar Series.

Her work looks at the wellbeing impact of internet use and increased connectivity across developing regions of the world, with a particular focus on the effects on children and young people.

Watch the full presentation on the Centre’s YouTube channel.

Setting wellbeing priorities in the real world

Samuel Dupret (Happier Lives Institute) shared research on how wellbeing science can be used to set philanthropic priorities at the latest of the Wellbeing Research Centre’s Seminar Series.

The Happier Lives Institute – founded by Research Fellow Dr Michael Plant – evaluates charities, giving strategies and both new and existing evidence against the universal metric of wellbeing-adjusted life years (WELLBYs).

Watch the full presentation on the Centre’s YouTube channel.

Vaccine views distorted by what people would like to be true, research finds

  • People’s opinions about scientific knowledge are influenced by what people would like to be true, according to a study of UK attitudes to COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Individuals were found to view ‘their’ vaccine as safer and more effective than alternatives – even despite what they may have previously stated
  • Findings are published today (Wednesday) in the Journal of Health Economics

A study of the UK population’s attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines has revealed how psychological factors can distort opinions about scientific facts.

New research, published today (Wednesday) in the Journal of Health Economics, tracked how a sample of 856 UK residents viewed the Pfizer and Moderna jabs both before and after their vaccination.

The vaccination policy in the UK, which did not allow patients to choose the type of their vaccine, provided researchers with a rare real-world opportunity for a natural experiment to study the dynamics of memory and beliefs in a personal health context.

Individuals were asked for their opinions of both the safety and effectiveness of both vaccines, as well as – if given the choice – whether they would choose a Pfizer or Moderna dose.

They found that, on average, individuals viewed ‘their’ vaccine as far better than they used to think, both in terms of its safety and its effectiveness.

There was also a trend for people to misremember their previously-stated beliefs, tending to believe that they thought well of their own vaccine all along, and would have chosen it if they could: even if they had previously stated a different preference.

Researchers believe that this uptick in optimism can be explained by a combination of motivated reasoning (where the desire to achieve a certain conclusion impacts our support of evidence), and humans’ tendency to overvalue events which are poorly informative (like one’s own experience with vaccination).

The findings shows that people tend to display retrospective optimism. Revising one’s own memories and opinions can protect individuals’ wellbeing by reducing fear and anxiety, especially given the irreversible nature of vaccine injection.

A previous study at the Wellbeing Research Centre found a similar form of retrospective optimism also using happiness measures.

Dr Alberto Prati, Ajinomoto Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre, Assistant Professor in Economics at the University College London, and co-author of the study, said:

“I think we helped uncover the roots of why people disagree. When people developed different hopes for what the scientific truth is, they ended up disagreeing about it. This shows that disagreement is more than a simple matter of different amounts of knowledge.”

Dr Charlotte Saucet, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and co-author for the study, said:

“This study teaches us that beliefs are very adaptive. They change as a function of humans’ needs and desires. In real life, it is quite rare to have situations that allow to observe this phenomenon as neatly as during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.”

The causal effect of a health treatment on beliefs, stated preferences and memories’ is published in the Journal of Health Economics.

Image: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street, reproduced under license CC BY 2.0 DEED.

New publishing partnership for World Happiness Report

  • World Happiness Report to be published at the University of Oxford under new global partnership
  • 2024 Report, powered by data from the Gallup World Poll, centres around theme of happiness at various stages of life
  • Findings to be revealed at a series of international events on March 20 to coincide with UN International Day of Happiness

The World Happiness Report will be published under a new global partnership between Gallup, Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Powered by data from the Gallup World Poll, the World Happiness Report is the world’s foremost publication on global happiness: an annual publication which provides valuable, interdisciplinary insights into the wellbeing and happiness of people across the globe.

In addition to the rankings of the world’s ‘happiest’ countries, the report includes curated submissions from experts at the forefront of wellbeing science.

The 2024 edition focuses on happiness ‘through the ages’, with: a closer look at wellbeing among children and young people across different global regions; an examination of the wellbeing impact of dementia among older generations; and an analysis of happiness across India’s 1.4billion+ population.

These findings, including the 2024 nation rankings, will be shared for the first time on March 20, during an in-person and live-streamed global launch, in partnership with Semafor, at Gallup HQ in Washington DC (USA), followed by a panel discussion at the World Happiness Summit in London (UK).

Each edition of the World Happiness Report serves as a significant resource for governments, policymakers, researchers, and individuals interested in understanding the complex factors that contribute to human wellbeing. At its core, it seeks to quantify and measure happiness as a fundamental indicator of societal progress. It goes beyond traditional economic measures, such as GDP, and provides in-depth analyses into wellbeing and its drivers across the globe.

From 2024 the World Happiness Report will be a publication of the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford.

The editorial team is formed of John F. Helliwell, Lord Richard Layard, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Lara B. Aknin, and Shun Wang.

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Director of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre and a Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the Saïd Business School, said: “We could not be more excited to host publication of further significant insights via the World Happiness Report at the University of Oxford in 2024, and in the years to come.

“We wish to place on record our thanks to fellow editor Jeff Sachs and his team at SDSN for the role they have played in enabling the World Happiness Report to date, and are grateful for their continued support in addition to our other valued research partners.

“The World Happiness Report is a partnership which would not be possible in its current form without positive collaboration between Gallup, our Wellbeing Research Centre, SDSN and the entire Editorial Board.”

Jon Clifton, Gallup’s CEO said: “Our involvement in the World Happiness Report epitomizes Gallup’s dedication to bringing rigorous, data-driven insights to the global conversation on happiness. This initiative perfectly aligns with Gallup’s vision of a world where leaders listen to what truly makes life worthwhile, as told through the voices we gather and analyze.”       

Prof Jeffrey D. Sachs, President of SDSN and Director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Development, said: “As our world continues to face deep challenges and crises, our nations should put the happiness of their citizens and the world’s citizens at the center of public policies. The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network is very proud of our strong partnership with Gallup and Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre to produce the World Happiness Report.

“The World Happiness Report has become an important tool worldwide for helping governments, businesses, and civil society to promote human prosperity and sustainability for all. We are deeply committed to expanding its insights and global reach in the years ahead.”

Viewers may register to join the livestream of the Gallup launch here.

COVID-19: The wellbeing impact on health workers

Prof Andrew Clark (Paris School of Economics) presented new findings around the wellbeing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare professionals at the latest of the Wellbeing Research Centre’s Seminar Series.

The findings of the study – and a potential health workers’ paradox – could make a significant contribution to the future direction of recruitment to the NHS and other health services across the world.

Watch the full presentation on the Centre’s YouTube channel.

Wellbeing in war: Ukraine insights shared at World Economic Forum

Wellbeing insights from Ukraine fed into the conversation of ‘living with war’ at the World Economic Forum in 2024.

Prof Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Director of the Wellbeing Research Centre and an Editor of the World Happiness Report, discussed research into the impact of war on the Ukrainian people’s life satisfaction, their feelings of worry, sense of belonging, and more.

He was part of a panel assembled by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, in collaboration with the Office of the President of Ukraine and the PinchukArtCentre, contributing to a programme of events under the title ‘Deciding Your Tomorrow’.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in the audience to hear Prof De Neve’s remarks on the ‘living with war’ panel, alongside the real-life stories of people experiencing the conflict first-hand.

You can watch Prof De Neve’s remarks in full on the Centre’s LinkedIn page, video kindly provided by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation.