Researchers at Harvard and Baylor University launched a $ 43.4 million research initiative last month to examine the causes of “human flourishing.”
The initiative, announced on October 29, is the largest of its kind.
The study covers 240,000 people from 22 countries. The study will collect data annually on various measures related to their well-being over a five-year period. Gallup, an analytics and consulting firm known for its opinion polls, and the Center for Open Science, a nonprofit that aims to increase transparency in research, have also joined the partnership.
Human flourishing means “living in a state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good,” according to Tyler J. VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and director of Human Flourishing Harvard Program.
VanderWeele, who is co-director of the study, said he hopes the study can more rigorously assess the wide variety of factors that affect a person’s well-being.
âWe often do a really good job of studying physical health and income – it’s really important, but people care more than that,â he said. “They also care about being happy, about having meaning and purpose, about trying to be a good person and about their relationships.”
Study co-director Byron R. Johnson, who heads Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion and is a professor of social sciences there, said the concept of fulfillment is “much broader than happiness.”
âThat’s why the survey instrument itself is so important – because it measures a number of things,â he said. âDo you have meaning in your life? Do you have a purpose for your life? Are you happy with where you are heading? “
The survey will test six domains to build a âthriving indexâ – including questions on life satisfaction, goal, and mental and physical health – and use nationally representative sampling.
âThis is not a convenience sample, it’s based on Gallup’s survey infrastructure, which they’ve developed over the past 15 years,â VanderWeele said. “We will recruit into the study a group of people who at least roughly represent the demographic and cultural characteristics of the entire country.”
The study will be the âworld’s first longitudinal panel,â which means it collects multidimensional data over time, according to Joe Daly, a senior partner at Gallup.
“These types of studies are increasingly rare because they are so expensive and require a lot of work,” Johnson said. âWe wanted to do something that would help us get things done on the types of causal analyzes, so that we didn’t always have to rely on correlational studies. “
Daly also said the study will be one of the first to examine all of the major world religions, unlike previous religion studies which tended to focus on Judaism or Christianity.
âWe are going to examine the construction of spirituality, religion and human flourishing through all these major religious and cultural groups in the same methodology, with the same questionnaire, so that there is the possibility of starting to see what these things look like across these different religions, âhe said.
In partnership with the Center for Open Science, this thriving study will make its data accessible to the public.
âWe really hope that this will contribute not only to our own research, but to the research of others and to the study and promotion of well-being in the world,â VanderWeele said.
Johnson said the researchers are “optimistic” that the study could extend beyond five years or extend to more countries.
âWe hope we will have 30 countries before it’s all said and done,â he said. âIf we can go on for 10 years and 10 waves of data, then nothing has ever happened like this before. “
âEditor-in-Chief Ariel H. Kim can be contacted at [email protected]
– Editor Vivi E. Lu can be contacted at [email protected]