A Summary of Happiness Research

Dav­id Brooks brings ‘hap­pi­ness research’ back to the wider pub­lic’s atten­tion with a suc­cinct sum­mary of research into what does and does not make us happy:

Would you exchange a tre­mend­ous pro­fes­sion­al tri­umph for a severe per­son­al blow? […]

If you had to take more than three seconds to think about this ques­tion, you are abso­lutely crazy. Mar­it­al hap­pi­ness is far more import­ant than any­thing else in determ­in­ing per­son­al well-being. If you have a suc­cess­ful mar­riage, it does­n’t mat­ter how many pro­fes­sion­al set­backs you endure, you will be reas­on­ably happy. If you have an unsuc­cess­ful mar­riage, it does­n’t mat­ter how many career tri­umphs you record, you will remain sig­ni­fic­antly unful­filled.

Brooks goes on to look at the con­fus­ing cor­rel­a­tions between hap­pi­ness and wealth before dis­cuss­ing the wider “cor­res­pond­ence between per­son­al rela­tion­ships and hap­pi­ness”:

The daily activ­it­ies most asso­ci­ated with hap­pi­ness are sex, social­iz­ing after work and hav­ing din­ner with oth­ers. The daily activ­ity most injur­i­ous to hap­pi­ness is com­mut­ing. Accord­ing to one study, join­ing a group that meets even just once a month pro­duces the same hap­pi­ness gain as doub­ling your income. Accord­ing to anoth­er, being mar­ried pro­duces a psych­ic gain equi­val­ent to more than $100,000 a year.

If you want to find a good place to live, just ask people if they trust their neigh­bors. Levels of social trust vary enorm­ously, but coun­tries with high social trust have hap­pi­er people, bet­ter health, more effi­cient gov­ern­ment, more eco­nom­ic growth, and less fear of crime (regard­less of wheth­er actu­al crime rates are increas­ing or decreas­ing).

via Fred Wilson

I dis­cussed the ‘com­muters para­dox’ last year, not­ing that “a per­son with a one-hour com­mute has to earn 40 per­cent more money to be as sat­is­fied with life as someone who walks to the office”.