Vale Ed Diener, Mr Happiness

Positive psychology 11.06.10Ed 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.

TraderFeed: When Doing More Means Achieving LessI 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.

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4 Responses to Vale Ed Diener, Mr Happiness

  1. R. N. England says:

    We human beings are such competitive devils that a great deal of our happiness is Schadenfreude. When that kind of happiness gets out of hand, the state, to save its own skin, attempts to direct it offshore.

  2. Chris Lloyd says:

    OK. I will take the bait Paul. I have been wondering for months: why is this, and many of your other pieces, posted under the heading “dance”?! Please respond with a link to an effing A* journal.

    • Hi Chris,

      nice of you to notice.
      For one, the link is allegorical in that I see many things as part of the dance of life. That certainly holds for death, but also the corona episode as it involved metamorphosis and strange movements. If you need a journal article with that kind of subject: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160699

      More interestingly, I explicitly linked the Covistance to dance in October 2020. Social distancing and bans on large gathering has of course meant a ban on most forms of dancing in many countries, so the promise of the Covistance is also the promise of a return to actual dancing. Moreover, as a kind of resistance movement the saying ” a revolution without dance is not a revolution worth having” very much applies.
      I just checked my previous posts and saw I only started referring to dance systematically after September 2020 when I hence started to think more about the nature and culture of resistance.

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