SSE Riga Assistant Professor Xavier Landes is arguing that such reports, where countries are evaluated and ranked, attract positive or negative attention for the wrong reasons. Commentators got overly excited (sometimes using uncritically the results for nationalistic celebration) or mock such reports without really understanding how they can be useful, especially for public policy. Happiness research provides precious elements for identifying social issues, vulnerable groups, worrying national evolution, and so forth. But for being able to read that in such studies, we need to go beyond simplistic appraisals or rebuttals of a field of research that is often complex.

"The point of happiness research such as the one sum up in the World Happiness Report is to shed a different light on social capital, i.e. the quality of individual relations and institutions in different countries. Actually it is less (almost not at all) about smiley faces than about how satisfied people are with their life, work, co-citizens, government, etc. If Finns score so high this year, it is not because they are overly elated. It is because they are producing a very high evaluation of their own life," stresses Xavier Landes.

Read the article (in Latvian) at

Xavier Landes is professor at SSE Riga and also advisor for the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.


Photo from the movie "Sprīdītis" (1985)