Programs & Research

Global Flourishing Study

The GFS will be unprecedented in its ability to offer insights into the determinants and consequences of well-being throughout the world. It will enable us to understand better what causes high levels of well-being, and what detracts most from human flourishing. We will be measuring close relationships, social support, loneliness, civic engagement, political values, personality, gratitude, forgiveness, prosociality, religious beliefs and practices, depression, anxiety, trauma, vitality, suffering, pain, meaning, self-rated health, financial security, employment, income, self-rated health, life satisfaction, and numerous other aspects of the participants’ lives and well-being.

Learn More
Click To View/Download

Project Overview

  • What makes people flourish across the globe?
  • What makes people happy? What gives them meaning and purpose? What helps them stay healthy?
  • What builds character? What contributes to healthy relationships?

The Global Flourishing Study (GFS) is a collaboration between ISR and Harvard University’s Human Flourishing Program, in partnership with the Gallup Organization and the Center for Open Science, that will provide a rich set of data to answer these questions.

The GFS will establish a cohort study of 240,000 individuals in 22 geographically and culturally diverse countries, with at least five waves of annual panel longitudinal data.

The panel will include individuals from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Global Flourishing Study – In the News…

How Can We Measure Human Flourishing?

The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard, headed by GFS co-director Tyler VanderWeele, has developed a unique approach to measuring human flourishing, based around six central domains:

  1. Happiness and life satisfaction
  2. Mental and physical health
  3. Meaning and purpose
  4. Character and virtue
  5. Close social relationships
  6. Material and political stability

Many previous studies in the social and biomedical sciences focus on narrow measures such as income or disease. In positive psychology, studies are often restricted to positive affect. However, this is not all that we mean by human flourishing. The GFS aims for a more comprehensive measurement that captures this broad range of well-being measurements. Each of these five domains is nearly universally desired, and each for the most part constitutes an end in itself.

Learn more about our methodology and the development of our questionnaire instrument.  Learn more – Click here.

Global Flourishing and the Study of Religion

In addition to applying a more comprehensive approach to measuring human flourishing, the GFS proposes other innovative approaches to studying the role of religion in well-being—both from a more global perspective and over a longer period of time. Most prior studies rely upon cross-sectional samples from the United States and Europe (a “snapshot” perspective), while the empirical study of religion has often been limited to Christianity.

We propose to close this knowledge gap by examining the determinants of well-being and the effects of religion in a global probability-based panel study that includes people of all major faith traditions and none. The GFS will furthermore expand knowledge on the extent to which, and in what ways, many of the world’s largest nations are or are not flourishing, as well as why. Its longitudinal panel nature and large sample size will allow for the application of a rigorous methodology to examine the causes of flourishing.

Research Team

The core research team includes leading scholars at Baylor and Harvard that work across a variety of disciplines, including sociology, epidemiology, psychology, economics, history, theology, and philosophy.

Project Directors

  • Byron R. Johnson, Director of Institute for Studies of Religion and Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University
  • Tyler J. VanderWeele, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Director of the Human Flourishing Program

Research Scholars from Baylor University

  • Sung Joon Jang, Research Professor of Criminology and co-director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Family & Adolescent Delinquency
  • Jeff Levin, University Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health and Professor of Medical Humanities at Baylor University
  • Robert Woodberry, Senior Research Professor and Director of the Project on Religion and Economic Change at ISR
  • George Yancey, Professor of Sociology, ISR
  • Matt Bradshaw, Research Professor of Sociology, ISR
  • Thomas Kidd, Associate Director of ISR and James Vardaman Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University
  • Sarah Schnitker, Associate Professor of Psychology, Principal Investigator of the Character Strength Interventions in Adolescents Grant (2018-2021)
  • Van Pham, Graduate Program Director and Professor of Economics at the Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University
  • John Ssozi, Associate Clinical Professor of Economics at the Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University
  • Merve Balkaya-Ince, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University

Research Scholars from Harvard University

  • Matthew T. Lee, Director of Empirical Research, The Human Flourishing Program
  • Ying Chen, Research Associate and Data Scientist, The Human Flourishing Program
  • Richard Cowden, Psychology Research Associate, The Human Flourishing Program
  • Brendan W. Case, Associate Director of Research, The Human Flourishing Program
  • Tim Lomas, Independent Researcher, Harvard Human Flourishing
  • Katelyn Long, John and Daria Barry postdoctoral fellow at the Human Flourishing Program

Project Manager

  • Alex Fogleman, Project Manager, Global Flourishing Study


The GFS is generously funded by the John Templeton Foundation, Templeton Religion Trust, Templeton World Charity Foundation, Well-Being for Planet Earth, Fetzer Institute, Well Being Trust, Paul Foster Family Foundation and the David & Carol Myers Foundation.