New Research Finds Health and Relationships Are Key to Happiness

What do you think would bring you greater happiness in life? It turns out that most people consider having great social relationships and a healthy state of mind to be more important than having a lot of money.

Researchers from the London School of Economics examined over 200,000 survey responses from people around the world. The subjects used a scale of 0 to 10 (where o was “extremely dissatisfied” and 10 was “extremely satisfied”) to gauge how certain lifestyle factors impacted their level of life satisfaction.

Using the scale of 0 to 10, the researchers found that doubling subjects’ income resulted in less than a 0.2-point increase in life satisfaction, the BBC reported. The researchers suggest that this small increase is due to people’s tendencies to adapt to higher levels of income over time and compare their income to other people’s income levels. The data revealed that an individual’s life satisfaction was influenced by their income relative to their peers’ income according to age, gender and geographic region.

Income, it seems, is sort of complicated when it comes to how it affects happiness. A related study published earlier this year also found that overall life satisfaction didn’t increase when people received raises at work — even when their personality types were taken into consideration — but a reduction in income was associated with a decrease in life satisfaction.

A 2010 study conducted by Princeton University found that income, in fact, can positively affect happiness — but only up to a certain amount, where $75,000 is apparently the magic number. The lower an individual’s income falls below that number, the more dissatisfied they feel. No increase in happiness was found to be reported by individuals with an income greater than $75,000, no matter how much more they were earning.

When it comes to relationships, however, having a partner caused subjects’ happiness to increase substantially. The London School of Economics researchers found it to increase by 0.6. Conversely, happiness also decreased by this much when losing a partner either by death or separation was considered.

The report revealed that the biggest lifestyle factor that impacted subjects’ happiness was mental health — especially when anxiety and depression were considered. Anxiety and depression decreased happiness by 0.7, and although unemployment showed the same reduction, the researchers found that suffering from anxiety or depression was more common than being unemployed.

Richard Layard, coauthor of the study, said that the evidence of social relationships and mental health being most important to people’s happiness makes it all the more important for governments to start focusing more on wellbeing creation rather than wealth creation.

Besides what the report has to say about what governments should start prioritizing, we as individuals can even take the findings from this report into consideration for our own personal journeys toward greater happiness and life satisfaction. Instead of focusing on growing our egos by chasing goals that are typically characterized by gaining money and materialistic things, we need to be aware of the fact that it’s so much more important to focus on being kind to others, nurturing our existing relationshipspracticing mindfulness, and making small, healthy lifestyle changes that have been proven to boost happiness.

While it never hurts to have a prestigious job that comes with a nice big paycheck, this report is a good reminder of what’s really important and what we should really be putting out time and energy into if we want to keep genuine, heartfelt happiness growing while minimizing misery.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

87 comments

Lesa D
Lesa D1 months ago

thank you Elise...

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Ruth S
Ruth S1 months ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S1 months ago

Thanks.

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Emma L
Emma L1 months ago

tyfs

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris1 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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Carole R
Carole R1 months ago

I so agree.

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Sophie A
Sophie A1 months ago

Thank you

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Ingrid A
Past Member 1 months ago

tyfs

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David C
PANDA B1 months ago

thanks, makes sense

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hELEN h
hELEN hEARFIELD1 months ago

tyfs

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