Happy just because. A cross-cultural study on subjective wellbeing in three Indigenous societies

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Victoria Reyes-Garcia
  • Sandrine Gallois
  • Aili Pyhala
  • Isabel Diaz-Reviriego
  • Alvaro Fernandez-Llamazares
  • Eric Galbraith
  • Sara Miñarro
  • Lucentezza Napitupulu

While cross-cultural research on subjective well-being and its multiple drivers is growing, the study of happiness among Indigenous peoples continues to be under-represented in the literature. In this work, we measure life satisfaction through open-ended questionnaires to explore levels and drivers of subjective well-being among 474 adults in three Indigenous societies across the tropics: The Tsimane' in Bolivian lowland Amazonia, the Baka in southeastern Cameroon, and the Punan in Indonesian Borneo. We found that life satisfaction levels in the three studied societies are slightly above neutral, suggesting that most people in the sample consider themselves as moderately happy. We also found that respondents provided explanations mostly when their satisfaction with life was negative, as if moderate happiness was the normal state and explanations were only needed when reporting a different life satisfaction level due to some exceptionally good or bad occurrence. Finally, we also found that issues related to health and-to a lesser extent-social life were the more prominent explanations for life satisfaction. Our research not only highlights the importance to understand, appreciate and respect Indigenous peoples' own perspectives and insights on subjective well-being, but also suggests that the greatest gains in subjective well-being might be achieved by alleviating the factors that tend to make people unhappy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0251551
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 13.05.2021

Bibliographical note

Seventh Framework Programme: 261971 FP7