New centre aims to be world leader in happiness research

With the launch of its new Center for Wellbeing, Welfare and Happiness, the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) aims to establish Sweden as the foremost knowledge hub for wellness and happiness research in the world, according to a press release.

The new centre of excellence, which will also have its own professorship dedicated entirely to the subject of happiness, well-being and welfare, will spearhead the drive for a happier and more prosperous world, focusing on two pivotal areas of research: happiness and quality of life; and new economic models of production and consumption.

By researching these important subjects, the centre also sees itself contributing towards reversing the trend of rising numbers of mental health conditions worldwide.

“Currently, the global community is losing millions of healthy, happy and productive years, and, according to the WHO [World Health Organization] and Harvard [University] researchers, the losses to the global economy are in the trillion-dollar range – every year. Addressing the causes and promoting wellness at the centre of our society will mean significant gains for both individuals, organisations and society at large,” the press release says.

The launch of the centre takes advantage of the fact that Nordic countries, including Sweden, consistently lead global rankings in both happiness and quality of life.

Reshaping society

“This initiative marks a significant milestone, not just for SSE, but also signifies a powerful commitment to global prosperity. Through our research, we want to contribute to reshaping society. We aspire to empower decision-makers, businesses and the public alike to foster a more prosperous, resilient and fulfilling world for all,” said Lars Strannegård, president of the Stockholm School of Economics, in the press release.

Strannegård told University World News the centre had so far received SEK71.5 million (US$ 6.5 million) in private sector funding, some of it through philanthropic foundations. “So far, no public funding has been added,” he said.

“The establishment of the centre and the professorship is made possible through donations and support from Sebastian Knutsson and Malin Ströman, Christian Kinch, select banks within Sparbankerna, the Inner Foundation, the Lars-Olof Mattson Foundation and Stefan Krook. We have received a lot of positive attention both nationally and internationally,” he said.

The new professorship dedicated to well-being, welfare and happiness, the first of its kind at a business school, has been awarded to renowned economist and happiness researcher Micael Dahlen, who will also head the new centre.

Throughout his career, Dahlen has “combined his passion for economics with a deep empathy for the human condition”, according to the press release.

“He is also the author of several books on a science-based approach to happiness and wellness, asking the question: how can we make the most of our human nature, build better organisations and, above all else, live better lives?”

His three latest books are Happiness Made Easy: The science-based steps to feel just a bit better and What's the Point? How to find meaning in your life, and, together with Helge Thorbjørnsen, More. Numbers. Every. Day.

Dahlen said he looked forward to playing his part in “contributing to our wellbeing, both as individuals and as a society. This is truly the beating heart of economics”.

Dahlen, who took his PhD degree at SES in 2001, became a professor in 2008 and his research focused on wellbeing and welfare. He is known for his frequent presentations to public audiences and YouTube presentations.

In 2023 Micael Dahlen has been a regular contributor to SvD, one of the major Swedish newspapers, with articles on topics such as: what eight out of 10 people would do during their last day in life; how to make better decisions; the value of taking some time away from partners; the age people regard as the best; and what Swedes regret most in life.

Connecting research, decision-making and practice

“The new research centre aims to establish a closer connection between research, decision-making and practice. The goal is for research to contribute to the foundation for future policy-making, guide companies in implementing health-promoting measures that can enhance both productivity and profitability, and, not least, make important research findings accessible to the public,” the press release said.

The centre will also invite world-leading thought leaders and researchers to Stockholm to jointly develop solutions to challenges.

The initiative has been welcomed by the Swedish government.

Jakob Forssmed, minister for social affairs and public health, said: “Initiatives like this, researching what produces wellbeing and good mental health, are very welcome. Through cooperation between research, decision-making, and practice, we are improving the conditions for shaping a better future for people and promoting mental health.”

Professor Helge Thorbjørnsen, who is based at the Norwegian School of Economics and has co-authored books and articles with Dahlen, told University World News: “Understanding well-being and the underpinning of happiness is more important than ever. There is a reason why major international business schools and universities now have started teaching happiness to their students. The timing of this centre is perfect.

“If anybody in Scandinavia can develop such a research centre, it is Micael. He is creative, well-connected and perhaps the most curious person I know.”