Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 1337–1350 | Cite as

Measuring Happiness and Overall Life Satisfaction: A Danish Survey Experiment on the Impact of Language and Translation Problems

  • Henrik Lauridsen LolleEmail author
  • Jørgen Goul Andersen
Research Paper


The paper addresses language and translation problems in the most typical measures of happiness and overall life satisfaction in international surveys using an experimental design. In the experiment, randomly selected groups of Danish university students answered questionnaires in English and Danish, respectively. We found significant differences in the answers on both indices. As such, it was confirmed that the term “happy” is not the same in English and Danish. In Danish the word is similar to the German word “glücklich” which seems to refer to something stronger than just being “happy”. Perhaps more surprisingly, we also found a significant difference between the answers on “overall life satisfaction”, indicating that the answers given in Danish are too high as compared to the English ones. The differences are large enough to argue that such simple tests should be conducted before ranking countries in terms of these two well-established indices of subjective well-being.


Subjective well-being Happiness Life satisfaction Survey experiment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henrik Lauridsen Lolle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jørgen Goul Andersen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceAalborg UniversityAalborg EastDenmark

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