Review of Behavioral Economics > Vol 6 > Issue 4

Happiness and Self-Determination – An Empirical Study in Japan

Kazuo Nishimura, Kobe University, Japan, , Tadashi Yagi, Doshisha University, Japan
Suggested Citation
Kazuo Nishimura and Tadashi Yagi (2019), "Happiness and Self-Determination – An Empirical Study in Japan", Review of Behavioral Economics: Vol. 6: No. 4, pp 312-346.

Publication Date: 29 Nov 2019
© 2019 K. Nishimura and T. Yagi
JEL Codes: I31
HappinessWell-beingSelf-determinationPositive thinkingSense of insecurity


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In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Outline of Our Survey Data 
3. Factors of Psychological Wellbeing and Explanatory Variables 
4. Comprehensive Analysis of Factors that Determine the Sense of Wellbeing 
5. Psychological Wellbeing and Income, Educational Background, and Self-determination 
6. Subjective Wellbeing and Age, Income, and Self-determination 
7. Conclusion 


According to the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, Japan’s happiness level is not very high, and the freedom to make life choices tends to be limited. Since the 1970s, “why happiness does not necessarily correlate with income levels” has been an important topic in the study of happiness. In this study, we conducted a survey of 20,000 Japanese nationals and analyzed the respondents’ data by using income, education, health, human relations, and self-determination as explanatory variables. The results show that the sense of wellbeing in relation to age drops at around midlife, generating a U-shaped curve, while the sense of wellbeing does not increase in proportion to an increase in income. The findings also indicate that, following health and human relations, self-determination is a stronger determinant of a sense of wellbeing than either income or educational background. It is believed that self-determination in life enhances motivation for and satisfaction with the action chosen and ultimately leads to an increased sense of wellbeing. It is noteworthy that those high in self-determination have a high degree of happiness in Japanese society where the freedom to make life choices is deemed to be narrow.