We all want to be happy. We want our children and other family members to be happy.

What really effects our happiness?


We all want to be happy. We want our children and other family members to be happy.

What really effects our happiness?

An interesting Web site explaining the history of happiness re-search can be found at www.get-happy.-net. It appears happiness research took a long time to really be taken seriously. Fordyce, 2000, believes one of the main reasons it took some time to study happiness is psychology in general has primarily focused on the negative. Only recently have professionals begun to realize that learning how to have a healthy, positive life may help us understand how to avoid an unhealthy or negative life.

There are a number of interesting findings related to happiness. First, Easterline, 2001, points out those with above average incomes tend to be happier; however, their happiness does not increase as their income increases. Thus, it appears once a person reaches a certain level that is a little over average, their happiness level will not change in regards to income. It is interesting to note people in the studies feel their happiness has increased over time as they get richer; however, studies indicate that actual differences are small.

Another factor related to happiness is marital status. It appears those who are married tend to be happier overall than those who are unmarried or cohabitating, Stack & Eshelman, 1998. Researchers believe this is due partially to the fact that financial stress is reduced when one is married as there is more financial stability regarding expectations and earners in the household.

In addition, it appears those who are married are able to meet physical health demands better as well. More research is needed to understand other factors relating to why married couples are happier. Many theorists believe married couples are happier because there is a stronger sense of commitment and emotional stability.

Fordyce, 2000, summarized some of the other research findings including the following:

1. Gender makes no difference in levels of happiness.

2. Marital status does improve happiness potential only when the relationship is going well; if it is going badly, it has a strong negative influence on happiness levels.

3. Having children or number of children does not seem to make a significant difference, according to studies.

4. Satisfaction with job correlates with happiness levels.

5. Higher education influences level of happiness with a four-year college degree or more increasing levels of happiness.

6. Intelligence level seems to have no influence on happiness.

7. Good physical health does not increase happiness, but bad physical health will definitely decrease it.

8. And, age itself does not influence happiness; however, certain events that often occur during certain ages can influence happiness. Early adulthood to middle adulthood seems to be the happiest times with adolescence and old age being the most common unhappy times.

Susan M. Jackson is the Harvey County Extension agent, family and consumer sciences and community development.