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Happiness: Time Trends, Seasonal Variations, Intersurvey Differences, and Other Mysteries

Tom W. Smith
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 42, No. 1 (Mar., 1979), pp. 18-30
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3033870
Page Count: 13
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Happiness: Time Trends, Seasonal Variations, Intersurvey Differences, and Other Mysteries
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Abstract

This paper examines trends in psychological well-being in the united States since the Second World War. To measure these trends, a long series of surveys with questions on subjective, personal happiness are analyzed. To test the adequacy of this measure, its association with more complex measures of well-being (e.g., the Bradburn Affect Balance scale and the Andrews and Withey life-feeling scale) was examined, and its test/retest stability determined. Both indicated that happiness might serve as a suitable indicator. Variations in question wording were examined in the happiness series. Differences were found that prevented all wordings being used in a uniform, single series, but the general trends were detectable by using the two main variations as parallel series. Possible seasonal and context effects were also found that further complicated the analysis of happiness. With the effects of variant wordings, seasons, and contexts taken into consideration, it appears that happiness rose from the late forties to the late fifties, then fell until the early seventies, and then, possibly after some rebound, remained stable from the early seventies to the present.

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