Happiness research offers various tools, e.g. indicators, in order to monitor the well-being of a given population or specific social groups. It is part of the stream of work initiated by Robert Putnam and the social capital movement. The idea is to identify the factors that contribute to a “healthy” society, i.e. a society where citizens trust each other and their institutions, display high levels of social cohesion, etc. It is about the quality of social and political relations.

Therefore, happiness is relevant for Latvia, since the country, while having drastically improved its situation in terms of happiness over the last 10 years (World Happiness Report, 2018), still struggles to sustain a cohesive and trustful society.

 “People often misunderstand what happiness research is about. They imagine smileys, feeling good all the time, i.e. something quite superficial, while happiness research is about what really matters in life: positive feelings, yes, but also functioning well, life satisfaction, quality of life, absence of suffering, individual flourishing. All the ‘things’ we want our governments not to achieve for us, but to help us to realize on our own,” says Assistant Professor Xavier Landes.

SSE Riga offers a course on happiness and public policy. The objective of the course is to educate students on happiness research and its direct uses for policymakers.

SSE Riga has been active in supporting public debates on the topic. It organized a round table at LAMPA in 2017 with Meik Wiking (director of the Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen) and Ivars Ijabs (professor at the University of Latvia) about the importance of happiness research. For LAMPA 2018, SSE Riga will host a round table on social cohesion in partnership with the Danish Cultural Institute and the Danish Embassy in Scandinavia and Latvia with Christian Albrekt Larsen (Aalborg University) as the speaker.

SSE Riga’s goal is to take the lead in Latvia on questions related to well-being, happiness, and quality of life and to link them with broader reflections on the nature of the welfare state. To do so, Xavier Landes and Christopher Rieber are working on a report on Latvian happiness that will describe the current situation and the challenges faced by Latvian residents in terms of quality of life. The report will receive the support of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and will be released during the centenary of the Latvian Republic during fall 2018.