April 13, 2007 3:13PM

New at Cato Unbound: Ruut Veenhoven on Increasing Happiness

If you’re tired of hearing about how modern life is making us miserable, today’s Cato Unbound essay by Ruut Veenhoven, director of the World Database of Happiness, will come as a gust of fresh empirical air. Veenhoven says the most recent data show an increase in average levels of self‐​reported happiness in the United States and European Union, and that we’ve seen a much more dramatic increase in the number of years people can expect to live happily.

The number of Happy Life Years has risen in all Western nations over the last decade. This comes as no surprise, since life‐​expectancy has increased in all nations and average happiness has increased in most nations. What is a surprise, however, is the size of the gains. Over the last 33 years, no less than 6.2 additional Happy Life Years were added in the EU, 4.5 in Japan, and 6.2 in the U.S. This increase in overall quality of life is unprecedented in human history.

If you really think life in liberal market democracies is getting worse, the data tell a different story.