A simple guide to the best of happiness research

Posted on June 4, 2010 By thesuccessmanual Taged: Studies, Simpleguide

This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the best of happiness research. In Part 1, we will provide an overview of happiness research related to different themes in life - effect of money on happiness, work and happiness, marriage and happiness, age and happiness, religion and happiness, technology and happiness, young people and happiness, and happiness in nations around the world.

Money and Happiness
Giving money away can buy happiness: 'If doing something would make your mother proud of you, it's probably going to make you feel good.'
Relative income is more important than absolute income in determining the happiness of individuals in the United States.
Buying experience-related things, rather than material ones, bring more happiness to the consumer: e.g. massage, vacation, seeing a movie etc.

A new car does not stay new for long, and trips to the mechanic only become more frequent. Eventually, the car is less a source of happiness than of annoyance — something to be replaced. A satisfying experience, in contrast, often becomes even more positive over time as it is embellished in memory. A wonderful weekend with friends can live on in happy reminisces and rich stories for years to come.
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Wharton study: The more affluent they are, the more satisfied the higher-income earners, relative to lower-income earners.  [Study doesn't take into account the size of the income gap in each country, between high and low earners.]
Money Can Buy Happiness, Like Winning a Lottery for instance. [Study doesn't say about long-term happiness]

Work and Happiness
Better salaries don’t necessarily make people happy.
Job satisfaction key to happiness, EU study reveals
Doctors treating seniors are among the most satisfied.

Marriage and Happiness
Marital status and happiness: a 17-nation study. Being married is 3.4 times happier than cohabitation
The Key To Marital Happiness Is Letting Wife Have Her Way
A prosperous family is the key to happiness, especially if the 'significant other' is doing well.

Age and Happiness
Gallup Poll: People get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why.

“It could be that there are environmental changes...or it could be psychological changes about the way we view the world, or it could even be biological — for example brain chemistry or endocrine changes.”


Happiness in men usually drops after age 65.

On average, men's overall life satisfaction dropped in late life, after peaking around 65, so that men around age 85 were about as happy as they were in the their mid-40s.


Young People and Happiness
US Youth and Happiness

When asked “What one thing in life makes you most happy?” 46% of respondents say spending time with friends, family and loved ones.

Almost no respondents mentioned anything financial or material as a source of happiness when asked an unaided question about what makes them happy.
But many young people report financial woes as a source of unhappiness.
Looking to the future, 70% says they want to be rich - and nearly half think it’s at least somewhat likely they will be someday.
Just 29% want to be famous.


University degrees can't buy happinesspeople in their 20s with higher degrees are not happier than the young adults who dropped out of high school at the age of 10, the research shows... (&) youngsters destined for university graduation were happier than their peers were during their school and university years.


Junk Food Linked to Happiness in Children - Study shows kids who have unhealthy eating habits are less likely to be unhappy

Health and Happiness
Happy People Are Healthier - People with more "upbeat" moods have less cortisol in their bodies.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland as a reaction to stress. Therefore, it is often called the "stress hormone." It makes you have higher blood pressure and blood sugar and is immunosuppressive.


Technology and Happiness
People who have access to communication devices tend to be happier, especially women in developing countries.

Religion and Happiness
Highlights from a report about various studies on the effects of religion:

1. Church goers tend to be happier people.
2. Religious experiences, especially when they happen during prayer, often results in happiness.
In fact, intense religious experiences may lead to long-lasting increases in a person's happiness.

Reasons researchers give for religion's positive effect on happiness: Social Support, Firm Beliefs, and Religious experiences, which can be very positive.

Nations and Happiness
Term to know: Happiness economics - The study of a country's quality of life by combining economists' and psychologists' techniques.

World Happiness Survey: Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world is Happiest Nation in World.

A conclusion: According to the researchers, happiness in rich countries now is far more dependent on close personal relationships, good health and job satisfaction.

World Values Survey 1999-2001: The most "satisfied" people tend to live in Latin America, Western Europe and North America. Eastern Europeans are the least satisfied.
Conclusions:
1. Different cultures value happiness in very different ways.
The survey says that In individualistic western countries, happiness is often seen as a reflection of personal achievement. 'Being unhappy implies that you have not made the most of your life. '

Meanwhile in the more collectivist nations such as Japan, China and South Korea, people have a more fatalistic attitude towards happiness. "They believe it is very much a blessing from heavenly sources."


2. Things that give people happiness, satisfaction and meaning in their lives vary considerably between cultures.
Researchers say that ' how satisfied a person is with their life depends largely on how successfully they adhere to their particular cultural "standard".'

3. The happiest nations in the West also tend to have the highest levels of suicide.

For example, "People with mental illness are in real trouble with no extended family to watch over them." and,

young adults who focus on money, image and fame tend to be more depressed, have less enthusiasm for life and suffer more physical symptoms such as headaches and sore throats than others.


The Coca-Cola Study on Global Happiness
The study covered 16 countries across four continents. Some findings:
- People in all countries agree real world contact with family and partners is a greater source of joy (77%) than virtual world alternatives.
- The biggest highlights of the day for people everywhere include catching up with loved ones in the evening (39%), eating with the family (22%) and chatting to friends or colleagues (17%).
- Modern engagements such as watching TV (14%), connecting with others online (5%) and receiving the day’s first text message (2%) did not fare well in comparison.

To Read More about Happiness Research:

Harvard Study: Seven factors that predict personal happiness and well being

Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight.

Brainwave signals associated with feelings of happiness that can now be measured: Love, satisfaction, gratitude, full awareness, mindfulness, peace, and the absence of stress, can now be measured.
What can we learn from "happiness" research?
Happiness surveys are too problematic and unreliable to use as the basis for public policy.
Positive Psychology Studies - Summary of the Benefits of Happiness
New Directions in the Study of Happiness
Richard Epstein on Happiness, Inequality, and Envy
The New Science of Happiness
Money, sex and happiness: an empirical study
Happiness and Disability

Also know : The Grant Study at Harvard
Started in 1937. The research team selected 268 male Harvard students. The researchers would study the lives of these men not just at one point in time, but rather over a period of time -72 years.The Grant study has tracked measurable items like physical exercise, cholesterol levels, marital status, the use of alcohol, smoking, education levels, and weight, but also more subjective psychological factors such as how a person employs defense mechanisms to deal with the challenges of life. For the last 42 years, the director has been psychiatrist George Vaillant, who gave this secret to happiness: "The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people."

Related Bighow Guide:
How to be remarkable #21: Be Happy

Read the 100 Ways To Be Being Remarkable Series, a special project that brings you business and self-development advice from The Success Manual.

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