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Scientific paper


What have traditional hunter-gatherers got to say about happiness?

Aili Pyhälä

Entry type:
Scientific paper

Year of publication:

Degrowth Conference Leipzig 2014


Abstract: The last few decades have witnessed a rapid increase in the number of studies addressing the concept of “happiness”. However, the existing literature is highly biased to a) income-related studies; b) modern, industrialized societies; and c) single case studies. There is scarce research on cross-cultural understandings of happiness, particularly from small-scale, preindustrial societies. This paper addresses these gaps by studying the perceptions of happiness and well-being in three indigenous hunter-gatherer societies, the Tsimane´ (Amazonia), the Baka (Congo Basin), and the Punan Tubu (Borneo). I compare individual self-reported happiness with: 1) individual health; 2) individual needs perceptions; 3) household income and wealth, and; 4) personality. I also compare self-reported happiness with demographic, cultural, and social characteristics. The data were obtained from 18-months of fieldwork in each site. The findings provide valuable contributions both to the scientific literature and the global discourse on happiness, as well as for policy makers, development agents, and researchers working with local or national wellbeing.
Keywords: happiness; wellbeing; indigenous peoples
Narrative step: Facing the current crisis

This media entry was a contribution to the special session "Buen vivir and radical ecological democracy" at the 4th International Degrowth Conference in Leipzig in 2014.

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