Developing qualitative, biographical research into happiness and wellbeing a sociological perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter draws on qualitative data from a long term biographical project into happiness/wellbeing conducted in the UK between 2010 and 2014. It shows the contributions that qualitative approaches can make to wellbeing research that have been neglected by existing surveys or critical studies that focus attention on happiness as an individualised phenomenon shaped by the happiness industry. I discuss ways to define happiness/wellbeing for qualitative/biographical projects and ways to theorise happiness using concepts from Bourdieu, Archer, Sayer, Hochschild and Goffman.
I draw on case studies of two young women and their everyday struggles to live well, illustrating how they managed events threatening their wellbeing by drawing on different resources and opportunities which over time shaped the ebb and flow of their happiness.
The chapter explores three aspects of living well - everyday meanings and subjective experiences of happiness/wellbeing; the ways that living well emerges out of collaborative relationship (such as families, friends and employment); and the biographies of wellbeing as structural and agential powers (notably through class and gender processes) interweave to create distinctive patterns of happiness as people age. In documenting the way power relationships and social policies structure happiness in everyday life compelling citizens to creatively work at their wellbeing I offer a distinctively sociological analysis of wellbeing. One that offers a vision of happiness as a far more social, collaborative and biographical process than many other current studies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Modern Guide to Wellbeing Research
EditorsBeverley Searle, Jessica Pykett, Maria Jesus Alfaro-Simmonds
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
ISBN (Electronic)9781789900163
ISBN (Print)9781789900156
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2021

Publication series

NameElgar Modern Guides


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