Perceiving societal pressure to be happy is linked to poor well-being, especially in happy nations

Egon DEJONCKHEERE*, Joshua J. RHEE, Peter K. BAGUMA, Oumar BARRY, Maja BECKER, Michał BILEWICZ, Thomas CASTELAIN, Giulio COSTANTINI, Girts DIMDINS, Agustín ESPINOSA, Gillian FINCHILESCU, Malte FRIESE, Maria Cecilia GASTARDO-CONACO, Ángel GÓMEZ, Roberto GONZÁLEZ, Nobuhiko GOTO, Peter HALAMA, Camilo HURTADO-PARRADO, Gabriela M. JIGA-BOY, Johannes A. KARLLindsay NOVAK, Liisi AUSMEES, Steve LOUGHNAN, Khairul A. MASTOR, Neil MCLATCHIE, Ike E. ONYISHI, Muhammad RIZWAN, Mark SCHALLER, Eleonora SERAFIMOVSKA, Eunkook M. SUH, William B. SWANN, Eddie M.W. TONG, Ana TORRES, Rhiannon N. TURNER, Alexander VINOGRADOV, Zhechen WANG, Victoria Wai-lan YEUNG, Catherine E. AMIOT, Watcharaporn BOONYASIRIWAT, Müjde PEKER, Paul A.M. VAN LANGE, Christin Melanie VAUCLAIR, Peter KUPPENS, Brock BASTIAN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Happiness is a valuable experience, and societies want their citizens to be happy. Although this societal commitment seems laudable, overly emphasizing positivity (versus negativity) may create an unattainable emotion norm that ironically compromises individual well-being. In this multi-national study (40 countries; 7443 participants), we investigate how societal pressure to be happy and not sad predicts emotional, cognitive and clinical indicators of well-being around the world, and examine how these relations differ as a function of countries' national happiness levels (collected from the World Happiness Report). Although detrimental well-being associations manifest for an average country, the strength of these relations varies across countries. People's felt societal pressure to be happy and not sad is particularly linked to poor well-being in countries with a higher World Happiness Index. Although the cross-sectional nature of our work prohibits causal conclusions, our findings highlight the correlational link between social emotion valuation and individual well-being, and suggest that high national happiness levels may have downsides for some.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1514
Pages (from-to)1514
Number of pages14
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Fund for Scientific Research in Flanders (FWO) grant 1210621N (ED). Research Fund of KU Leuven grant C14/19/054 (ED, PK). Center for Social Confict and Cohesion Studies grant ANID/FONDAP 15130009 (RG). Interdisciplinary Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Studies grant ANID/FONDAP 15110006 and ANID/FONDECYT1201788 (RG). Te funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. The Author(s).


  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Peer Influence
  • Perception


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