Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 427–465 | Cite as

What Makes People Happy? Some Evidence from Northern Ireland

  • Vani K. BorooahEmail author


Using data on over 3000 individuals in Northern Ireland, this paper conducts an econometric investigation into what makes people happy. It draws a distinction between “objective” (income, marital status) and “subjective” (satisfaction with one’s standard of living (SoL); money worries; experience of poverty) factors determining happiness. In so doing, it takes a broader view of “economic status” than one defined solely by income: occupational class, mortgage status, financial worries, rural/urban residence, poverty experience, and, of course, income coalesce to form this, more complex, concept of economic status. Juxtaposed against this, is the concept of “context-free” and “context-specific” well-being. A particular example of the latter is the degree of satisfaction with one’s SoL and an important point of focus of the paper is the relationship between SoL satisfaction and happiness. A complementary point of focus is an analysis of the determinants of context-free and context-specific well-being. The paper also examines the effects of non-economic factors on happiness in particular on specific aspects of the ill-health of respondents and upon the quality of the areas in which they live. Having analysed these effects, it places a money value on each of the diversity of effects that act upon a person’s level of happiness.


happiness standard of living subjective well-being life satisfaction physical illness mental illness neighbourhoods 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and PoliticsUniversity of UlsterNewtownabbeyNorthern Ireland

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