Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 323-349

First online:

Global Progress I: Empirical Evidence for ongoing Increase in Quality-of-life

  • Francis HeylighenAffiliated withFree University of BrusselsCenter “Leo Apostel” Email author 
  • , Jan Bernheim

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This paper argues that both the relativist and the pessimist critiques of the idea of progress are inadequate. Progress is defined as increase in global quality of life (QOL). Such QOL is intrinsically subjective, but not relative. It can be reliably measured through “life satisfaction”-type questions. The “World Database of Happiness” provides extensive data on social, economic and psychological factors that correlate with overall QOL. They include wealth, health, security, knowledge, freedom and equality. Various statistical data suggest that all these QOL indicators have undergone significant improvements during the last half century, in most of the world. This gives strong support to the thesis that progress objectively occurs.

progress quality of life happiness optimism pessimism social indicators forecasting world view evolution development.