Ed Diener, one of the best-known scholars of happiness died this week at the age of 76. He was known as Dr Happiness in the United States, well-known for his 7-item scale on wellbeing and his constant refrain that the secret to happiness is in warm social relations.
I met Ed a few years ago in Utah, where he was running a center on wellbeing, trying to keep the flame of wellbeing going in the United States. You would think that in a country that has “the pursuit of happiness” in its constitution, policy interest in happiness would be rife, but the opposite is true. People like Ed were very much needed and he worked tirelessly for the cause.
You can get the measure of Ed by looking at what he wrote in 2020, at the age of 75/76, a year before his death. Not only did he publish almost 20 studies with something like 30 different co-authors, but he also published on important questions. He documented how the Syrian civil war had dramatically reduced the wellbeing of its people. He gathered evidence on how it is the happier people that take up good causes more than unhappy people. He wrote on how volunteering helps people get over trauma and on how happiness improved later health. He still pushed questions of wellbeing methodology and of world-wide data, even writing on major outstanding questions in the field. In short, he died in the saddle.
Ed truly practiced what he preached, leaving behind very warm relations with both the academics and family he spent time with. Together with his wife Carol he raised many children and young scholars, who were all infected with the idea that emotional skills and making time for relationships is the smart thing to do. Ed championed group-based programs that gave participants the idea that working on one’s emotional skills and happiness was worthwhile and rather easy once one got the knack. Ed leaves behind many friends, many books, and many good memories.