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Helena À. Marujo and Luis M. Neto

In this chapter, a succinct review of the quality of life and of the positive psychology domains, both focused on the study and elevation of the quality of individual and collective humans’ lives, brings about their historical, conceptual and applied divergences, but also their unequivocal relatedness and communalities. Their philosophies, purposes, objects of study, underlying constructs and inquiry characteristics are briefly explored, and their current controversies, strengths and weaknesses analysed. On the basis of the reviewed studies it is concluded that both domains are currently: bridged by the subjective focus; interconnected by the well-being theme; devoted to an emergent eudaimonic and social/relational perspective; and considering that what makes life prosper should be at the heart of a revivified, vigilant and engaged critical science, with a stronger ethos. Subsequently, there is an imperative need to harmonize both contributions, and to acknowledge and potentiate complementarities and continuous convergences to help new and fertile answers to emerge. This should be done in parallel with the integration of new and fundamental perspectives emerging from European considerations, such as the Civil Economy, with the rise of the Public Felicitá model, companions in the quest to discover and promote the foundations of human betterment and society well-being. None of these scientific grounds are sufficient in themselves to capture the complexity of the subject, so the different contributions need to enter tangible dialogues. Hence, some proposals towards realms of scientific collaboration are discussed in order to further understand, encourage and advocate essential qualities and potential practices of a virtuous society and a laudable collective life.

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Alessandra Pelloni

A fundamental question for economic analysis is how successful an economy is at delivering welfare for its members. According to virtually all cultural traditions, non-instrumental social relations, which we refer to as relational goods, are indeed necessary for a good life. However, relational goods are quintessentially gratuitous and cannot therefore be exchanged through markets or produced by the State. For these reasons their social value cannot enter GDP calculations and risks being ignored in our public discourse. In the past the quantitative evaluation of the impact of relational goods on welfare was just impossible. This is no longer true thanks to the increasing availability of data on subjective well-being (and on social activities themselves). Findings from these data strongly confirm the importance of social ties for our welfare and urge us to give up the anthropological reductionism still characterizing much of economic research.

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Antonella Delle Fave

During the last three decades, a growing amount of studies have explored indicators of subjective well-being, and their relationship with objective ones in determining the quality of life of individuals and populations across a variety of domains. The conceptualization and empirical operationalization of these indicators, however, represent a major challenge for researchers, due to their psychological nature that implies the use of self-reports to identify and measure them. Despite these difficulties, researchers’ effort led to the identification and rigorous measurement of a well-defined set of subjective indicators of well-being, grouped into hedonic indicators (comprising positive emotions and satisfaction with life) and eudaimonic indicators (including personal growth, meaning construction and resource development). The impact of these indicators on objective dimensions such as health, academic and work performance, and social functioning has been repeatedly highlighted. At the same time, advancements in the study of objective indicators of well-being brought forth the need for integrating these two approaches into a more comprehensive and less discipline-bound view, that can combine the attention to basic human rights and cultural diversity with the emphasis on the human tendency towards inner coherence and balance at the individual level and interconnectedness at the social one.

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Nicola Matteucci and Sabrina Vieira Lima

We survey the happiness and economics field to systematize the explanations of the happiness gender gap, whose puzzling evidence stands out both synchronically and diachronically. Further, this analysis is completed by an interdisciplinary review of competing perspectives, mostly from psychology and medical sciences. Beside disciplinary specificities and differences, results and explanations also reveal some intriguing commonalities. Psychology and medical sciences (also assisted by cutting-edge medical technologies) lead in the static (time-invariant) explanation of happiness and its gender gap, while economic works are better equipped to detect external factors and the role of time-varying objective life conditions. In particular, the happiness and economics field has provided original evidence on the country and time-variant nature of the happiness gender gap. Finally, different disciplines have uncovered the common stylized fact that women are increasingly worse off during their life, through aging, with respect to men: its full explanation still remains at the centre of the research agenda.