Everyday understandings of happiness, good life, and satisfaction: Three different facets of well-being

The need for increasing conceptual clarity within well-being research has been stressed by social scientists as well as policymakers and international organizations.


The present study aimed to identify and compare conceptual structures of the everyday terms happiness, a good life, and satisfaction, based on a semi-stratified sample of Norwegian adults. Findings indicate that these terms share certain conceptual similarities, as used in everyday Norwegian language. For each term, it was possible to identify an underlying structure of conceptual configuration, articulated into external life domain components and internal, psychological dimensions. Relationship themes were prominent among the external domains for all three terms. Findings indicated that in Norwegian participants’ understanding, happiness and good life were highly inclusive of external life domains, whereas satisfaction primarily evoked associations to internal, psychological states and experiences. Latent class analyses highlighted differences among socio-demographic groups as concerns the degree to which different conceptualizations of the three terms were endorsed. Findings raise questions about the practice, relatively common in the applied social sciences, of treating happiness, good life and satisfaction as highly similar concepts, and the assumption that each term carries the same meaning for everyone.

Applied Research in Quality of Life, 2016, doi:10.1007/s11482-016-9472-9

Published May 9, 2016 7:15 AM - Last modified Nov. 29, 2016 9:58 AM