Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research

2014 Edition
| Editors: Alex C. Michalos

Livability Theory

  • Ruut VeenhovenEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5_1669



Livability is the degree to which a living environment fits the adaptive repertoire of a species. Applied to human society, it denotes the fit of institutional arrangements with human needs and capacities. Livability theory explains observed differences in happiness in terms of need-environment fit.



Livability theory involves the following six key assumptions:
  1. 1.

    Like all animals, humans have innate needs, such as for food, safety, and companionship.

  2. 2.

    Gratification of needs manifests in hedonic experience.

  3. 3.

    Hedonic experience determines how much we like the life we live (happiness). Hence, happiness depends on need gratification.

  4. 4.

    Need gratification depends on both external living conditions and inner abilities to use these. Hence, bad living conditions will reduce happiness, in particular when its demands exceed human capabilities.

  5. 5.

    Societies are systems for meeting human needs, but not all...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Brickman, P., & Campbell, D. T. (1971). Hedonic relativism and planning the good society. In M. H. Appley (Ed.), Adaptation level theory. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  2. Cummins, R. A. (1995). On the trait of the gold standard for subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 35, 179–200.Google Scholar
  3. Headey, B. (2006). Happiness: Revising set point theory and dynamic equilibrium theory to account for long term change. DIW discussion paper 607. Berlin, Germany.Google Scholar
  4. Lykken, D. T. (1999). Happiness: What studies on twins show us about nature, nurture and the happiness set-point. New York: Golden Books.Google Scholar
  5. Michalos, A. C. (1985). Multiple Discrepancies Theory (MDT). Social Indicators Research, 16, 347–413.Google Scholar
  6. Veenhoven, R. (1993). Assessing livability of nations by happiness. Part I in happiness in nations’: Subjective appreciation of life in 56 nations 1946–1992. RISBO, Studies in Sociale en Culturele Verandering, nr. 2, p. 364, Erasmus University Rotterdam, ISBN 90-72597-46. Available at: http://www2.eur.nl/fsw/research/veenhoven/Pub1990s/93b-part1.pdf.
  7. Veenhoven, R. (2000). The four qualities of life. Ordering concepts and measures of the good life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1, 1–39.Google Scholar
  8. Veenhoven, R. (2010a). Life is getting better: Societal evolution and fit with human nature. Social Indicators Research, 97, 105–122.Google Scholar
  9. Veenhoven, R. (2010b). How universal is happiness? In E. Diener, J. F. Helliwell, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), International differences in well-being, 2010 (pp. 328–350). New York: Oxford University Press. Chapter 11, ISBN-13: 978-0-19-973273-9.Google Scholar
  10. Veenhoven, R. (2012a). Average happiness in 148 nations. World Database of Happiness, Erasmus University Rotterdam. http://worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl/hap_nat/findingreports/RankReport_AverageHappiness.php. Assessed 1 January 2012.
  11. Veenhoven, R. (2012b). Trends in average happiness innations 1946–2010. World Database of Happiness, Erasmus University Rotterdam. http://worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl/hap_nat/findingreports/Trendreport_AverageHappiness.pdf. Assessed 1 January 2012.
  12. Veenhoven, R., & Erhardt, J. (1995). The cross-national pattern of happiness: Test of predictions implied in three theories of happiness. Social Indicators Research, 34, 33–68.Google Scholar
  13. Veenhoven, R., & Ouweneel, P. (1995). Livability of the welfare-state: Appreciation-of-life and length-of-life in nations varying in state-welfare-effort. Social Indicators Research, 36, 1–49.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus Happiness Economics Research OrganosationErasmus Universiity RotterdamPotchefstroomThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Optentia Research GroupNorth–West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa