Wellbeing Reading List

We asked the World Wellbeing Panel (WWP) panelists to nominate 5 relevant papers in the wellbeing literature that they believed should be added to our Wellbeing Reading List. The nominations are in, and from now until the end of 2022, we will disclose the 24 most-nominated papers.

Papers will be revealed two at a time, starting with those that had the fewest nominations and using the number of citations in 2021 (according to Google Scholar) when there are ties.

The Wellbeing Reading List is managed by WWP panelist Daniela Andrén (Örebro University) and the managing committee of the World Wellbeing Panel.

Please use the hashtag #WellbeingReadingList on social media to share and comment on the papers.

January 2022


Luechinger, S. (2009). Valuing air quality using the life satisfaction approach. The Economic Journal, 119, 482–515.

Total Google Scholar citations in 2021: 570

This paper was among the first to use a life satisfaction questions from survey data, combined with administrative data on pollution, to estimate the monetary value of a non-market good, air quality. Luechinger suggested that because the life satisfaction data contain useful information on individuals’ preferences and hedonic experience of public goods, the life satisfaction approach expands economists’ toolbox in the area of non-market valuation, complementing the methods to monetarise non-market good for cost benefit analysis and policy design.

See also the WWP December 2021 survey on the WELLBY cost-benefit methodology


Diener, E (1984). Subjective Well-Being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.

Total Google Scholar citations in 2021: 5

Professor Diener is one of the best-known happiness scholars and his article was his first paper in subjective wellbeing. The paper reviews the literature since 1967 and ends by setting the priorities for future research, notably emphasizing the need to combine data with theoretical prepositions and to integrate the different theories.

We lost Professor Diener in 2021. See the July 2021 World Wellbeing Panel survey dedicated to his work and his memory: Is happiness a way of life, shared with others?

December 2021 

The 23rd and 24th papers in the Wellbeing Reading List were written by three psychologists. The 24th paper was written in 1989, a time in which the use of self-reported happiness was yet not widespread in social sciences.


Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.

Total Google Scholar citations in 2021: 48,388

This paper focuses on psychological health and examines the factors that enhance (rather than undermine) intrinsic motivation and wellbeing: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. In contrast, the paper finds that excessive control, nonoptimal challenges, and lack of connectedness reduces individual initiative and responsibility and leads to distress and ill wellbeing. This paper is very relevant to those individuals that have strong influence on others’ behaviors, e.g. parents and educators, and managers as mentioned by Ryan and Deci.


Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069-1081.

Total Google Scholar citations in 2021: 18,167

This paper uses survey data to operationalize what constitutes positive psychological functioning with six dimensions (self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth) and empirically estimate its importance on determining life satisfaction and six other measures of wellbeing. This is, a multidimensional model of psychological wellbeing. Ryff argues that these measures of psychological wellbeing represent more enduring life challenges than happiness. Ryff concluded that the most recurrent criterion for positive well-being has been the individual's sense of self acceptance or self-esteem.