Living in a Just Society Makes Us Happier

How We Rate Happiness

Living in a Just Society Makes Us Happier

In a recent study, researchers at the University of Illinois put American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s proposed “hierarchy of needs” to the test. In 1943 Maslow proposed that all humans seek to fill basic needs. These needs ranged from the basics like food, sleep, and safety, to more abstract needs like love, belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Arranged in the form of a pyramid with the basic needs at the bottom, Maslow believed that the more needs people fulfilled, the happier they would be. Although the theory of needs has been taught for years, there was little to no scientific research to back it up—until now. Ed Diener, professor emeritus of psychology and colleagues used Gallup World Poll to conduct surveys in 155 countries between 2005 and 2010 to gather data about individual happiness. The questions in their poll addressed money, food, shelter, safety, social support, feeling respected, being self directed, having a sense of mastery, and the experience of positive or negative emotions. After analyzing the statistics, the researchers found that fulfilling a diversity of needs is universal and important to happiness, although the order in which the needs are met had little importance in overall satisfaction. Interestingly enough, the research also showed that “people have higher life evaluations when others in society also have their needs fulfilled,” which indicates happiness is not just an individual affair, but depends on the quality of life in your community.

How important is your community for you?