Science - May 19, 2016

Which environment makes you happy?

Roelof Kleis

Alterra is doing research for the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency on how your surroundings contribute to feelings of happiness. The chief research tool is an app: Happyhier.

Previous research by Alterra revealed a lot about what we value in the landscape, but the scale was still quite approximate. So more information is needed. Happyhier asks users a series of questions four times a day. The app chooses the moment to do this depending on your location, which it pinpoints through your mobile phone. Happyhier’s bell will mainly ring in places with a natural landscape, says researcher Sjerp de Vries. The app then asks how you are feeling, what you are doing, and with whom. The trial is based on the English app Mappiness, used by over 65,000 people. De Vries aims at 2000 users.

The question is what conclusion can be drawn from all the data that is gathered. You can be unhappy in a beautiful environment, and the reverse is true too. But the researchers assume that with enough participants the relation between environment and happiness will be clear. The initial conclusion from the English study is that people are happier in a natural environment than in the city.

Happyhier exists for Android as well as iOS and can be downloaded from the usual app shops. Users are asked to participate in the experiment for a month.