‘In the long run the loss of happiness is smaller than you might think’

In an article on living with a disability Professor Ruut Veenhoven, who is affiliated with the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organisation of Erasmus School of Economics, explains that in the long run the loss of happiness is smaller than you might think: ‘Heavily disabled people usually get satisfaction in their lives.’ Veenhoven collects various research results in the World Database of Happiness. It includes an American study about the feeling of happiness of people living at home who suffered a paraplegia twenty years ago. On average they scored half a point less than the average American.

The loss of happiness is largely due to the side-effects of the disability on work, income and marriage, according to Veenhoven. ‘There are great individual differences, but most people are more resilient than they realise. Ask people how they think they would appreciate their lives if they became paralysed or blind and they quickly answer something like than life is finished for me. At such a moment they mainly see the limitations. What else could I not do? But ask exactly the same question to people who actually happened to it and you get a totally different answer. Then you usually focus on what you can still do.’

More information

Read the entire article on the website of de Volkskrant (in Dutch), 27 July 2018.