Casey Eggleston, a researcher at the University of Virginia, told Discovery News that language differences also come into play, with the meaning of happiness differing across cultures over time.
"The historical definition included concepts of luck and good fortune, but that meaning has fallen out of use in the U.S., where many believe they can pursue and obtain happiness by their own effort, while it remains a major part of the concept in most other cultures," she explained.
"Similarly, the emotional connotation of the word happy varies substantially. While the American concept typically includes upbeat positive emotions like excitement, the concept in East Asia tends to focus more on calm positive emotions like peace and contentment."
The researchers chose to focus on two particular countries, but they expect respondents in other nations with a large Christian base would also provide different, culture-predicted responses to the question, "Was Jesus happy?"
As for their own answers, Eggleston said, "There are two primary approaches to happiness: hedonia and eudaimonia. Hedonia is a state of pleasure and physical enjoyment. In the sense of feeling good, I don't think Jesus was happy most of the time, although he undoubtedly had pleasant moments during his ministry."