British anthropologists have mined literature to find out how sad or happy we have been over the decades. Through word usage, the researchers were able to determine the emotional state of the culture over the past several decades. From the story in NPR:
“Several years ago, more or less on a lark, a group of researchers from England used a computer program to analyze the emotional content of books from every year of the 20th century â€” close to a billion words in millions of books. This effort began simply with lists of “emotion” words: 146 different words that connote anger; 92 words for fear; 224 for joy; 115 for sadness; 30 for disgust; and 41 words for surprise. All were from standardized word lists used in linguistic research.”
So do you believe them? The saddest year over the past century was 1941, according to the research.
“Values above zero indicate generally “happy” periods, and values below the zero indicate generally “sad” periods.”