Psychologist Attila Oláh, the country’s foremost expert in matters of happiness has been mapping the feeling for years with his team at the ELTE University and says that happiness is a notoriously difficult concept to define, let alone measure.
“Consider how happy we are when we have someone visiting and how happy we are when that guest leaves,” Oláh said in a lecture on happiness. He said one of the greatest modern authorities on the subject, American psychologist Martin Seligman hates the expression and prefers “relative well-being”.
Oláh said that by correlating the self-confessed happiness levels mapped out in Hungary a few factors are evident: happiness is more common among women, those with more than four children, those with a higher education and the 30 to 50 age group.
He said that while the regional differences have remained largely unchanged in Hungary over the past two decades, the overall happiness level of the country – as indicated by the World Happiness Report – has shown a gradual increase: while the country was only ranked 112th among the 156 countries included in the report, last year it was placed 69th.
Oláh also said that an individual’s happiness is at around 60 percent, defined by an inner “thermostat” that will keep it relatively steady regardless of conditions, 40 percent of the factors defining it are under our control.
By the way, Hungary has a happiness institute operated by a group of enthusiastic volunteers.