Happiness and Life Satisfaction: A Look at Data by Division

Blog February 15, 2023

Happy are the people whose God is the LORD. – Psalm 144:15 (NKJV)

You will show me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)

What makes us happy? For years, researchers have tried to answer that question. Is happiness centered in a strong sense of self? A successful career or a good paycheck? Are those raised in loving homes happier as adults? Does being flexible and adaptable make someone happier? Are happy people involved in the community? Does it all boil down to our genetics and psychological predisposition?

While science hasn’t been able to discover the root of happiness, as Christians, we know that the foundation of our happiness and identity is found only in God, Himself. He is the true source of joy and happiness—both now on earth and for eternity in Heaven.

Global Happiness Trends

In a previous blog, we asked the question, “Are Adventists happy, grateful people?” The 2017–18 Global Church Member Survey asked members, taking all things together, to rate their happiness on a four-point scale: not at all happy, not very happy, rather happy, or very happy. The global data revealed that a majority (88%) of members reported being happy people with about 45% of them being rather happy and  44%, very happy.[*] Only a small percentage (2%) admitted that they were not at all happy.

When the data was cross-tabulated by Division, it was revealed that the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) had the highest percentage of those who reported being “very happy” (57%), followed closely by those in the West-Central Africa Division (WAD; 54%). It is interesting, however, that the WAD also reported the second highest percentage (3.5%) of members who were not happy at all, exceeded only slightly by the East-Central Africa Division (ECD; 3.6%).

Notably, a strong majority of church members in all Divisions (84% and over) evaluated themselves as rather happy or very happy people. This is a significant finding regarding Seventh-day Adventists around the world. While the scores on happiness in most Divisions clustered between 87% and 91%, in two Divisions—the Northern Asia-Pacific (NSD) and North American (NAD)—the scores on happiness went up to 93%.

Life Satisfaction

Our previous blog also examined how members rated satisfaction with their lives. They were asked to imagine a ladder that represented their lives with 0 being the worst and 10 being the best. They were then asked at which step of the ladder they felt their lives currently were. Globally, nearly half (45%) ranked their life at an 8 or above, with 13% ranking their life at a 10—meaning they could not imagine their lives ever getting any better. Another 45% ranked their lives at a 5 through 7. Approximately one in ten (11%) ranked their current life situation at a 4 or below.

When this data was examined by Division, nearly one in four (24%) respondents from the South Pacific Division (SPD) ranked their current life situation at a 10. This number is notably higher than any other Division worldwide! Nearly three in five (60%) respondents in the Inter-American Division (IAD) ranked their lives at an 8 or above, followed by the SPD (56%). Sixty-one percent of respondents from the Southern Asia Division (SUD) ranked their lives at a 5 through 7, followed by the Euro-Asia Division (ESD) (55%).

It should be noted that the 2017–18 GCMS did not investigate the reason(s) for a lower happiness score or lower step ranking in any Division.

What could be the reasons for low rankings that occur in certain divisions? Are these church members in difficult economic situations? Or do they experience family problems or spiritual breakdown? Do they feel alone in dealing with their challenges? Or maybe their goals and dreams are not met or are out of reach?

Research has shown that happiness does not depend on how much we have or how difficult our life situations are. Happiness depends on how grateful we are for what we have and how satisfied we are with the people in our lives. Do we trust God with our life situations? Do we ask for His guidance in doing His will? Do we support our brothers and sisters in difficult situations? Are we available when God asks us to be a helping hand?

While there are many factors that can impact our emotions and feelings of happiness, it is important that we, as a Church, keep our eyes fixed on Jesus—“the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2, NKJV), the only source of true happiness and joy.

You can find out more information on the total sample here in the Meta-Analysis report.

A more detailed breakdown of the happiness ladder by Division can be found here.

Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.

Published by ASTR on 02/15/2023

[*] The subtotals total 89% due to rounding of fractions.