G Gardiner, D Lee, E Baranski, Members of the International Situations Project, and D C Funder (2020)

Happiness around the world: A combined etic-emic approach across 63 countries

PLoS One, 15:e0242718.

What does it mean to be happy? The vast majority of cross-cultural studies on happiness have employed a Western-origin, or “WEIRD” measure of happiness that conceptualizes it as a self-centered (or “independent”), high-arousal emotion. However, research from Eastern cultures, particularly Japan, conceptualizes happiness as including an interpersonal aspect emphasizing harmony and connectedness to others. Following a combined emic-etic approach (Cheung, van de Vijver & Leong, 2011), we assessed the cross-cultural applicability of a measure of independent happiness developed in the US (Subjective Happiness Scale; Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999) and a measure of interdependent happiness developed in Japan (Interdependent Happiness Scale; Hitokoto & Uchida, 2014), with data from 63 countries representing 7 sociocultural regions. Results indicate that the schema of independent happiness was more coherent in more WEIRD countries. In contrast, the coherence of interdependent happiness was unrelated to a country’s “WEIRD-ness.” Reliabilities of both happiness measures were lowest in African and Middle Eastern countries, suggesting these two conceptualizations of happiness may not be globally comprehensive. Overall, while the two measures had many similar correlates and properties, the self-focused concept of independent happiness is “WEIRD-er” than interdependent happiness, suggesting cross-cultural researchers should attend to both conceptualizations.

open access article