Elements of a Sociological Contribution to Happiness Studies



A significant body of social-science research on happiness has accrued in recent decades, produced mainly by economists and psychologists. Sociologists, however, have made more limited contributions to “happiness studies”. This paper provides an overview of concepts, methods and findings and suggests some questions about happiness that ought to be of substantial interest to sociology. Many sociologists are clearly interested in the well-being of the people they study (sometimes suggesting “policy implications” emerging from their empirical findings); happiness is a presumptively important form of well-being, and an engagement with happiness studies might constitute a way to develop more systematic connections between well-being and academic research. Building on existing findings, sociologists would be well-placed to consider the social context of happiness (as against an individualist orientation more common in other disciplines) as well as the unintended consequences of policy initiatives and happiness discourses.