Our 2022 Happiness Report
Updated: Mar 21
On June 28th, 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that declared March 20 as the International Day of Happiness, to be observed every year. International Day of Happiness was proclaimed as a response to a previous resolution from 2011 that recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples.”
Since that resolution, public interest in happiness has increased exponentially. Courses about the science of happiness have experienced record popularity and demand in the top universities in the world. Policymakers worldwide increasingly see it as a vital and extensive goal of public policy, affecting public health, productivity, and growth. And yet, across most measures, global happiness has been steady for the past decade and in some countries, has been declining consistently.
At Happy Things we see ourselves as part of the movement to prioritize happiness as a way of life. Our vision is to help people live happier lives, by learning how to practice happiness as a skill. Since the launch of the Happy Things app, we have been able to collect thousands of data points on our users’ usage, goals, and happiness. This is our first happiness report based on data collected from our users. But more important than the data itself is the message of the report. The true measure of success and progress is the happiness of our users and its increase. After over 2 years of operation, we are proud to say our users experience a significant increase in happiness.
At Happy Things, we measure users’ happiness over time using a modified version of the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) questionnaire. The PANAS is the most widely and frequently used scale to assess positive and negative affect. The Happy Things PANAS is composed of six questions measuring positive emotions over the past week. The scores range between 1- 5, as higher scores represent higher levels of positive affect.
While users are encouraged to conduct happiness check-ins periodically based on their usage, it is not mandatory. The first point of check-in is at the onboarding process, and in 2022 over 75% of users have chosen to check-in and get their happiness score. From the data collected, we can see that from 2021 to 2022, the starting happiness score of our users has been consistent; the average starting happiness score of users was 2.52 in 2021 and 2.53 in 2022. The average in the United States is 3.3, indicating that Happy Things app users are generally less happy than the average American.
Moreover, in 2022, almost half (47%) of the users started with a score of 1 - 2.4, while only 14.2% of users started with a score higher than 3.3. These findings suggest that a large portion of Happy Things app users were struggling with their happiness in both 2021 and 2022.
Past the starting point of the app, we have seen encouraging data on the improvement of the happiness score of users, particularly long-term consistent and active users. A thorough data analysis reveals that active users experience an increase of 17.5% in their score after 1 month of using the app and a 29.3% increase after 4 months of usage. After 7 months of usage, active users experience an increase of 57.2% in their happiness score. All of these active users have been consistently “checking-in” and filling up the PANAS questionnaire once a week for the measured period of time.
Areas of Improvement
When registering to the app, users are asked to rank how important it is for them to improve six different goals related to happiness. The goals are: improving my mood, reducing stress and anxiety, coping better with negative events, improving relationships, and building self-esteem. Each goal can be ranked on a scale from not important to very important.
When looking at user data, we can see users ranked stress and anxiety as their most important goal to improve in both 2021 and 2022. Mood was the second most important area to work on, followed by self-esteem, resilience, and relationships.
It is essential to note that the intensity of these goals increased from 2021 to 2022 for all areas. Self-esteem saw the most significant increase, with a 17.91% rise, followed by relationships at 14.75%, resilience at 7.58%, mood at 6.58%, and stress and anxiety at 7.69%. These findings suggest that users of the Happy Things app were prioritizing their mental and emotional well-being with higher intent and intensity.
Interestingly, the highest-ranked goal for younger users under the age of 24 was self-esteem in 2022, while stress and anxiety remained the top goal for all age groups. This could suggest that younger users are more concerned with building their self-confidence and self-worth, while older users are more focused on managing their stress levels.
As part of our meta-analysis, we also gathered information about the activity of our users and what type of content they engage with the most.
When it comes to the highest-ranked activities, these are the top five ranked activities on the app:
Listen to a song you know all the lyrics to - 4.48
Look at photos that make you happy - 4.43
Do something small for someone you care about - 4.42
Think of three things you love about yourself - 4.42
Select one spot to declutter - 4.41
Interestingly, the most highly rated activities varied by age group. For instance, the highest-rated activity for users between the ages of 18 and 24 was “work standing up for 30 minutes”, and the highest-rated activity for users between the ages of 41 and 60 was “while listening to an inspiring song.”
The app also provides users with badges for completing different activities. The most earned badges were the Self Love Lobster badge, which is awarded after completing five self-care and confidence activities, the Positive Penguin badge, which is awarded after completing five mood-boosting activities, and the Organization Wiz badge, which is awarded after completing five decluttering activities.
Overall, the data we collected in 2021 and 2022 suggests that stress and anxiety remain top concerns for users, with a particular increase in the intensity of focus on self-esteem in younger users. The most popular activities for improving mental well-being varied by age group, but all shared a focus on small, manageable actions to boost mood and increase happiness.
While many users struggle with stress and anxiety, they are prioritizing their mental health and using simple, effective strategies to improve their well-being. The data suggest that different age groups have different approaches to achieving happiness, but all share a commitment to self-care and personal growth. By focusing on these core principles, we can continue to improve the overall state of happiness in the United States and beyond.