The National Happiness Experiment finds that our happiness depends on a sense of fair play.

The results of Ireland’s first ever National Happiness Experiment are in, just in time to predict the impact of Ireland’s 2013 budget on the nation’s sense of wellbeing - and researchers have found that our nation’s happiness depends on feeling like we have been treated fairly.

In a nationwide experiment conducted with Science Gallery, researchers from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Psychology have measured Ireland’s happiness which, on average, is 6.8 on a 0-10 scale.

his compares well to global averages, securing our title as one of the world’s happiest countries. Amongst other things, this happiness appears to depend on feeling that decisions made by the government are fair.

Led by researchers Malcolm MacLachlan and Karen Hand, The National Happiness Experiment launched on the 24th of May during Science Gallery’s ‘Lab in the Gallery’ exhibition, HAPPY?.

Over the course of six weeks, the moods of 3,309 participants were tested via SMS in collaboration with Vodafone. Participants received and answered text messages that measured their happiness levels through a series of simple responses.

Now, the results of the experiments have been published in the book, Happy Nation?, by researchers and authors Malcolm MacLachlan and Karen Hand. Launching this evening at Science Gallery, “Happy Nation?” reveals the main findings of The National Happiness Experiment, as well as offering new thoughts and insights on how we can use this information

Some notable findings from the National Happiness Experiment are:

- Ireland, once again, scored well in average happiness compared to global figures. The average happiness over the six weeks was 6.8 (on a 0-10 scale) and average life satisfaction was 6.7 (on a 0-10 scale).

- Fairness and accountability were closely linked to personal happiness, with those who felt that Ireland was a fair place and that ‘powerful people were kept in check by the media, law and public opinion’ were happier and more satisfied.

- A strong link was noted between participants’ health and happiness, with those who considered themselves to be quite healthy scoring significantly higher in terms of happiness and life satisfaction.

- A sense of being “in touch" is associated with greater happiness, especially in the under-20’s and over-60’s. People who felt positive about phone and text use were on average happier and more satisfied.

- Perhaps surprisingly, the changing weather during the six-week experiment did not significantly affect participants’ happiness levels.

- Also, it doesn’t matter what county we live in - where we live has no significant effect on our sense of happiness.

Speaking about the results co-author Malcolm MacLachlan said, “One of the things we hope will come out of this project is an enthusiasm for more research around happiness, an annual national survey, and a task force drawing from all sectors of society to look at how we can make Ireland a happier, more prosperous, and more enjoyable place to live in.”

The results of Ireland’s first ever National Happiness Experiment are inPatrick Bolger