Happiness and Meaning in What We Do

We looked at what makes people happy. We looked at activities that people rate as meaningful. Now let’s put them together and see what people rate as both meaningful and joy-inducing.

As before, people were asked to score meaning and happiness from 0 to 6 for activities during the day. The chart below shows the average scores for each activity.

Average Happiness and Meaning, By Activity

Larger circles represent more common activities.


Overall, most people score meaning and happiness in the higher range of the scales, which is why most of the activities show in the top right quadrant. I find the edges most interesting where meaning is high and happiness is low, or vice versa.

However, it gets more interesting when you look at the overall distributions of scores for each activity individually.


I analyzed and prepared the data in R. I used D3.js to make the chart. The data comes from the well-being module from the American Time Use Survey. I downloaded the data via IPUMS and used data from all available years: 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2021.

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My work on FlowingData is supported by paid memberships. Since 2007, I have been analyzing data and making charts to help people understand and appreciate data in their work and everyday lives. I hope to keep it going for many more years.

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