Advancing wellbeing research: would Americans be happier if they lived like Australians?



Publication Details

Patulny, R. Fisher, K. 2011, 'Advancing wellbeing research: would Americans be happier if they lived like Australians?', Emotions in Social Life: New Advance in Sociological and Policy Research, Social Policy Research Centre, Sydney,


International comparisons of subjective wellbeing (SWB) rarely account for the situational and social context of the experience of emotions such as the happiness and pleasantness associated with everyday activities. Kahneman and Krueger's landmark Princeton Affect and Time Survey (PATS, 2006) reveals the emotional context to the daily time-schedules of Americans, and enables aggregation of time and emotion data to produce estimates of 'pleasant' and 'unpleasant' time across a range of activities. Given the cultural and institutional differences between Americans and Australians, we would expect substantial differences in unpleasant time to emerge between the two countries, and a hypothetical examination of what would happen if Americans shifted to Australian time schedules is revealing. This paper analyses the PATS data and finds that shifting to Australian time schedules has mixed effects for Americans. The shift produces a small but significant change in net 'unpleasant' time, and reveals an interesting exchange whereby Americans would gain pleasant time in certain categories but lose it in others. There are substantial gender effects as well. The paper argues that it is imperative to conduct a time and emotion survey in Australia, to directly compare time and emotional wellbeing between the two countries.

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