Measuring wellbeing and happiness in nature using a smartphone

Together with the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and Alterra (part of the University of Wageningen Research Center), CentERdata developed the SHINE app for smartphones. SHINE stands for Sampling Happiness In Natural Environments.


The app aids research into how the quality of one’s life environment contributes to people’s well-being. The study was inspired by the Mappiness app developed by MacKerron & Mourato in 2013. The SHINE app offers new capabilities for real-time and situated measurements. Based on the location of the smartphone, and hence the user, the app determines which questionnaires to use at specific locations (for example, outdoors). The app asks three key questions: (1) how happy do you feel right now?, (2) are you participating in any activity right now?, and (3) are you being accompanied by anyone? Simultaneously, the type of environment where the app user is located is detected by the location technology available on the same smartphone.

The study

The study is aimed at differences in feelings of well-being in outdoor and natural areas and the situation indoors in a built-up area. Since most people spend much of their time indoors, it is a possibility that too little information is collected about interesting outdoor areas. That is why, in order to increase the number of measurements in the outdoors, the concept of spatial sampling quota was implemented in the mobile app. Using location detection, the application monitors whether the respondent changes location and whether outdoor areas are visited before the questions are asked.


The app uses technology developed for a study about how people spend their time. We conducted this study in 2012-2013 together with the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP). 

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