October 23, 2021

AI Scanned Millions of Books to Create a Historical ‘Index Of National Happiness’

From the World Economic Forum:

By analyzing 8 million books and 65 million newspaper articles, researchers have created the first-ever “index of national happiness” going back to 1820.

Key findings include from the index include:

Money helps: Increases in national income do generate increases in national happiness but it takes a huge rise to have a noticeable effect at the national level.

Longer lives matter: An increase in longevity of 1 year had the same effect on happiness as a 4.3% increase in GDP.

War is costly: One less year of war had the equivalent effect on happiness of a 30% rise in GDP.

There are low moments: In post-war UK, the worst period for national happiness occurred around the appropriately named “Winter of Discontent.” In post-war USA the lowest point of the index coincides with the Vietnam War and the evacuation of Saigon.

Complete Article From WEF

Learn More: The WEF post (above) shares finding from the journal article , “Historical Analysis Of National Subjective Wellbeing Using Millions Of Digitized Books” published on October 14, 2019 by Nature Human Behavior.

Abstract

In addition to improving quality of life, higher subjective wellbeing leads to fewer health problems and higher productivity, making subjective wellbeing a focal issue among researchers and governments. However, it is difficult to estimate how happy people were during previous centuries. Here we show that a method based on the quantitative analysis of natural language published over the past 200 years captures reliable patterns in historical subjective wellbeing. Using sentiment analysis on the basis of psychological valence norms, we compute a national valence index for the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Italy, indicating relative happiness in response to national and international wars and in comparison to historical trends in longevity and gross domestic product. We validate our method using Eurobarometer survey data from the 1970s and demonstrate robustness using words with stable historical meanings, diverse corpora (newspapers, magazines and books) and additional word norms. By providing a window on quantitative historical psychology, this approach could inform policy and economic history.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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