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Theme: The relations between economic growth and people’s happiness

I researched this theme in English Project 4. In English Project 4, I researched the relations about Japan. In this project, I would like to research the relations about America and compare America and Japan. 

What is happiness?
Aristotle, who is an ancient Greek philosopher, said that various objectives, for example, the hopes to earn the money, being respected by colleagues and helping poor people, are only the way to spend happy life. Moreover, he asserted that, only after regulating the living environment, it is possible to spend real human life. Thus, the important points to spend happy life are interpersonal resources and physical resources¹⁾. Interpersonal resources are the connection with others.

   The purpose of economic growth

In economics, the purpose of economic growth is raising people’s happiness. This is why people’s income increases, people consume more goods and services and are satisfied their craving. Thereby, the welfare of the people is promoted and people’s happiness is promoted.

  The relations between economic growth and people's happiness in Japan

In Japan, a lot of people believe that economic growth lead people’s happiness. I conducted a questionnaire. I asked 20 people whether you think economic growth leads people’s happiness or not. The figure 1 shows the result. 70 % of Japanese people believe that.

Figure 1. Whether you think economic growth leads people’s happiness or not.

Figure 2 shows the relations between GDP and people’s happiness in Japan, suggested by White Paper on National Life by Cabinet office, Government of Japan.

Figure 2. Trends of people’s happiness and GDP²⁾

Surprisingly, in Japan, the more developed the country is, the more unhappy Japanese people feel. In economics, the purpose of economic growth is raising people’s happiness. However, in Japan, the rate of economic growth is in inverse proportion to the rate of people’s happiness. If economic growth makes people unhappy, should we advance economic growth? What is the purpose of economic growth now? Moreover, the rate of Japanese people who feel happiness is lower than that of other developed countries’ people. Figure 3 shows the ranking of happiness in 2012-2014 in the world.

Figure 3. Ranking of Happiness: 2014-16³⁾

According to this figure, Japan is the 51th place of the ranking even though Japan is the third rank of GDP in 2017, researched by United Nations.

 Because of economic growth, the most industries replace secondary industry and tertiary industry such as manufacturing industry and service industry with primary industry such as agricultural industry. And funds and labor forces are concentrated to do things efficiently, so only the cities are developed and a lot of people flow into the city. Thereafter, in 2010, 70% of the population of Japan is accumulating in urban areas⁴⁾. For this concentration, people had a lot of problems, for example noise pollution and crimes. Thus to maintain the mental equilibrium, urban residents leave distance each other. And the chances to communicate with neighbors become fewer. Moreover, the scale of the company has expanded to not only the local but also various areas, so the opportunities to move away from the local area have increased. So it is difficult to form a friendly relationship. And the number of nuclear families, which consist only of a couple and their children, increases.

Therefore, in Japan, the more advanced economic growth is, the more separated Japanese people are, the less interpersonal resources they have, and the less happiness they feel.

 To increase Japanese people’s happiness, we should have more chances to communicate with others. This is because interpersonal resources are the connection with others, so, to get interpersonal resources, communicating with others is necessary.

The different values between Japanese people and American people⁵⁾
There is an interesting experiment about the difference between Asians and Westerners by Schnall, Harber, Stefanucci, & Proffitt (2008). They researched about “20 kinds of me”. “20 kinds of me” is a type of psychological tests that subjects write up to 20 descriptions of theirselves in the part of ~ in the sentence “I am ~”. Cross-cultural psychologists researched about this test in various countries. Researchers did not tell any content to subjects and subjects answered so freely. This research showed the big difference between Asians and Americans. A lot of American objects answered about their personality and property. For example, “I am a smart” and “I get angry easily”. On the other hands, Asian people answered about the groups which they are belonging in and their role. For example, “I am an office worker” and “I am a university student”. The difference of answers in “20 kinds of me” means that American people and Asian people have a different idea about the existence of theirselves. Most of cultures psychologists explain this difference by a model, “cultural views of self”. “Cultural views of self” is the common understanding in a culture what kind of existence we are and the essential premise to communicate in the culture. The result of “20 kinds of me” is that Japanese people have a common idea, “cultural views of self” which understands human in terms of their social attribution and roles, while American people have a common idea, “cultural views of self”, which understands human in terms of individual attribution.

In another research, Mr. Mark and Mr. Kitayama defined that the view of human accepted as common knowledge in Asian people is “a view of self focused on cooperation each other”. Moreover, they defined that the view of human accepted as common knowledge by American people is “a view of self focused on independent each other”. “A view of self focused on independent of each other” is a view that people should be distinguished from other people and things around them and spend a life independently. That is to say, this idea is that humans should be generally those who decide on their own actions and fates by themselves, and the actions taken by humans are created by "internal factors" such as personality, ability, talent and motivation. On the other hand, a view of self focused on cooperation each other is a view that a life separated from surrounding people is a life without value to live and there is a meaning only to live in relationship with others. In this view, the way of life to live a warm relationship with the surrounding people in cooperation is better than the way to persist on theirown opinions. In this view of humanity, a full-fledged person is a person who exactly understands the feelings of others, finds joy fulfilling not only his own wishes but also the wishes of others, can satisfy the hope and expectation of the people around him, and can make a good understanding of others' feelings and strive to understand well. In order to be recognized as a full-fledged person in this culture, people must feel happiness when they pay attention to others' feelings sensitively and fit theirselves to surrounding people. The independence of individuals is also important, but this is just an option selected personally, only after satisfying interdependence with others.


1)     Harada, K. (2017). Shakaitekinettowa-ku to kouhukukan keiryousyakaigaku de miru ningenkankei [Social network and happiness. Human relations from the perspective of econometric sociology]. Tokyo: Keisou Syoten.

2)     Cabinet Office, Government of Japan. (2008). Heisei 20 nendo kokumin seikatsu hakusyo ~syouhisyasiminsyakai heno tenbou – Yutori to seizyukusita syakaikoutiku ni mukete [FY2008 National life white paper ~ Prospects for Consumer Civil Society - Towards a Clean and Mature Society~]. Heisei 20 nendo Kokumin seikatsu hakusyo, 57-59, 60-62.

3)     United Nations' Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). (2017). Statistical Appendix for “The social foundations of world happiness”, John F. Helliwell, Haifang Huang and Shun Wang, Chapter 2, World Happiness Report 2017.

4)     BLOGOS. (2012). Urbanizing world - The theme I want to think this year (second part 1), Retrieved October 31, 2018, from

5)     Saeki, M. (2015). Nihonzin no kouhukudokouzyou notameno siawase no bunkasatiikisa no kenkyu [Study of cultural differences and regional differences of happiness to improve Japanese happiness]. Doctoral dissertation, Keiougizyuku University.

This project

According to figure 3, America is the 14th place of the ranking about happiness in the world and GDP in America is the first place in the world.

Figure 4 shows the relations between GDP and the percent of people who are very happy.

Figure 4. Average happiness and GDP per capital in America, researched by The United Nations’s latest World Happiness Report



アメリカでのアンケート調査  日本でも同様のアンケートを行い、比較対象とする。


Very happy, happy, neither, unhappy, very unhappy

  その理由 選択肢

Community, Physical, Social, Financial, Purpose …?




その理由 選択肢?