IV.10 A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being

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Adrian White

National Geographic EarthPulse Team

EarthPulse by National Geographic is a visual guide to global trends. It explores our complex connections with vivid and informative imagery, maps, diagrams, and interactives to illuminate where we are today, how we got here, and how our actions may affect the future of life on Earth. The very first issue of EarthPulse features a global map of subjective well-being (SWB). A ranking of the world’s happiest places is given on the right. The data on SWB was extracted from a meta-analysis by Nic Marks, Saamah Abdallah, Andrew Simms, and Sam Thompson in 2006 (http://happyplanetindex.org). It is immediately evident that there is an effect of poverty on levels of SWB. The map itself mirrors other projections of poverty and gross domestic product. Adrian White compared the data on SWB with the 2005 data on access to education provided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2005 health data made available by the United Nations (UN), and 2006 poverty data downloaded from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was found that SWB correlates most strongly with health (.7), wealth (.6), and access to basic education (.6). This adds to the evidence that, from a global perspective, the biggest factors affecting SWB are poverty and associated variables. Learn more at http://nationalgeographic.com/earthpulse.


Marks, Nic, Saamah Abdallah, Andrew Simms, and Sam Thompson. 2006. The Unhappy Planet Index: An Index of Human Well-Being and Environmental Impact. The Happy Planet. Accessed August 29, 2011. http://www.happyplanetindex.org/public-data/files/happy-planet-index-first-global.pdf.

White, Adrian and the National Geographic EarthPulse Team. 2008. A Global Projection of Subjective Well-Being. Courtesy of National Geographic. In “4th Iteration (2008): Science Maps for Economic Decision-Makers,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Elisha F. Hardy. http://scimaps.org.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.