Scientists carried out what could best be described as a statistical analysis of attitudes among US citizens. The main goal was to determine the exact factors that people perceive as increasing their own happiness. Experts were motivated by some interesting researches.
For starters, global data show that people living in countries such as Brazil, Panama and Cost Rica tended to declare themselves to be happier than their US counterparts. This puzzled experts, since these countries do not have a very strong economy.
The highest volume of data researchers had access to was collected from the General Social Survey, a study that began in 1972, and which covers about 32,000 people living in the United States. They are asked to answer a series of questionnaires covering different topics every year.
One thing that investigators learned right away is that collecting data on this topic – and later interpreting them – is a very complex task, and one that can easily lead investigators astray. As such, the team used the utmost caution in interpreting the data, Technology Review reports.
What researchers could not find for the life of them was a link between happiness and GDP, or between happiness and changes in GDP. If such a connection exists, it is even too weak to show up in statistical correlations, the team says.
Researchers Teng Guo and Lingyi Hu found that health was the most important thing determining people's happiness level. They learned that age, marital status and personal income were also very important in establishing individual happiness levels.
Overall, the study found that people who were healthy tended to be about 20 percent happier than the average. Conversely, sick people were 8.25 percent less happy than the average established in the study.
Interestingly, researchers learned that personal income played a very small role in establishing people's happiness levels. Those in the highest income bracket tended to be only about 3.5 percent happier than the study average.
The new study should provide policymakers and politicians with a new angle to look for methods of increasing happiness in society. The macroeconomic angle is obviously not working out, so maybe it's time for a new approach altogether.