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Japanese and US Subjective Wellbeing | by timtak
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Japanese and US Subjective Wellbeing

The above graph show the subjective well being of Japanese at -1.54 standard deviations below the international mean US Americans at +0.82 standard deviations above the international mean, at the zero point on the x axis. The heights of the distributions are arbitrary. As can be seen from this graph, if the results from wellbeing surveys are to be believed, then there are few Japanese even at below average US life-satisfaction, and almost none at even the median level of US satisfaction. Happy Americans are at a level of life satisfaction that Japanese can only dream of, and the vast majority of Japanese are wallowing in a region that US Americans would consider living hell.


To the the right is a picture of Ed Diener (Diener, 2000), the leading well-being researcher who developed the most commonly used scales.


Of these, the satisfaction with life scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985) is the most frequently used containing the following 5 items

1. In most ways my life is close to my ideals.

2. The conditions of my life are excellent.

3. I am satisfied with my life.

4. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.

5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

rated on a scale of 1 to 7 as follows

7 - Strongly agree

6 - Agree

5 - Slightly agree

4 - Neither agree nor disagree

3 - Slightly disagree

2 - Disagree

1 - Strongly disagree

The average developed country (zero point on the x axis) on the graph above, corresponds to a score of 20-24, which means that respondents are on average in the neither disagree and slightly agree range.


Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71-75.

Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34. Retrieved from


Using data from

Cummins, R. A. (1998). The second approximation to an international standard for life satisfaction. Social Indicators Research, 43(3), 307–334. Retrieved from


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Uploaded on September 19, 2014