Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 717–735 | Cite as

Aversion to Happiness Across Cultures: A Review of Where and Why People are Averse to Happiness

  • Mohsen JoshanlooEmail author
  • Dan Weijers
Review article


A common view in contemporary Western culture is that personal happiness is one of the most important values in life. For example, in American culture it is believed that failing to appear happy is cause for concern. These cultural notions are also echoed in contemporary Western psychology (including positive psychology and much of the research on subjective well-being). However, some important (often culturally-based) facts about happiness have tended to be overlooked in the psychological research on the topic. One of these cultural phenomena is that, for some individuals, happiness is not a supreme value. In fact, some individuals across cultures are averse to various kinds of happiness for several different reasons. This article presents the first review of the concept of aversion to happiness. Implications of the outcomes are discussed, as are directions for further research.


Aversion to happiness Culture  Subjective well-being Happiness Western psychology Positive psychology Fear of happiness 



We would like to thank Professor Bengt Brülde and two anonymous reviewers from the Journal of Happiness Studies; their detailed comments enabled us to greatly improve the original manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Philosophy ProgrammeVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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