There, you happy now?
January 10, 2005 1:39 AM   Subscribe

Happy Happy (both pdf) The burgeoning field of happiness studies is unearthing all sorts of interesting findings, many of them summarized in these two articles by University of British Columbia economist & "Professor of Happiness" John Helliwell. Rich countries are not happier than poor countries; people tend to revert to the mean after a happy event; money has only a modest effect on happiness; and, hey, good news! you get happier as you get older.
posted by mono blanco (11 comments total)
Some quotes:

...after reaching a low point among the 35-44 year-old group, subjective well-being thereafter rises systematically and significantly, with those 55 to 64 as happy as those aged 18 to 24, and those aged 65 and up much happier still. The size of the changes is large... improvement in the quality of government in Belarus (-.76) to that of Hungary (+.87) would (if the relation were causal) increase the average well-being of a citizen of Belarus by more than marriage, by about as much as the combined effect of religious belief and church attendance, and almost as much as moving from the bottom to the top decile in the country’s income distribution.

Edward Deci gave puzzles to two groups of students. One group he paid for each correct solution, the other he did not. After time was up, both groups were allowed to go on working. The unpaid group did much more further work – due to their intrinsic interest in the exercise. But, for the group that had been paid, the external motivation had reduced the internal motivation that would have otherwise existed.

posted by mono blanco at 1:40 AM on January 10, 2005

mono, that first link wants me to add the article to my shopping cart. Is this the same article, by any chance?
posted by taz at 3:47 AM on January 10, 2005

Hmmm. I'm not too sure about posting scholarly articles to MeFi. One is from 2001 and one is from 2003 -- four and two years, respectively, have passed since these were written. In certain research fields, that's a long time. Has any further research been conducted on these topics? Have rebuttals been published since then?

I'm sure that interesting conversation can be had from reading the articles (whose content I agree with); I'm just not sure about posting scholarly articles with no context or recent data.
posted by trey at 5:03 AM on January 10, 2005

taz, yes, that's it.
posted by mono blanco at 5:04 AM on January 10, 2005

I think you're right about the burgeoning of the happy field, mono. In the news today: Money can't buy happiness (related to your second link), and Irish among the happiest people on earth, and TIME Magazine's annual Mind & Body issue focuses on The "Science of Happiness" (press release sort of thingy), plus an MSN feature on the same subject.

Here's also the World Database of Happiness and the Journal of Happiness Studies, with all sorts of articles — including "Views On Happiness In The Television Series Ally Mcbeal"! (click "PDF" to view full article).

I'm almost always happy, so I'm wondering if I can get in on this new happiness gig in some way that is likely to make me rich and famous — which should be a valuable datapoint for testing whether these sorts of transitions can really increase happiness or not. I'm willing to be a guinea pig for the sake of my fellow humans.
posted by taz at 5:53 AM on January 10, 2005

This academic has published a few papers in the area, including 'Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study' (2004) and 'The Economics of Love' (2003).

trey, 2003 stuff isn't particularly out of date even in a fast moving field, virtually nothing will have been published so far this year.
posted by biffa at 6:26 AM on January 10, 2005

My initial reaction was "Cool! Happy Happy Joy Joy!"
posted by grateful at 6:28 AM on January 10, 2005

I remember hearing an interview with Maurice Sendak in which he said that he would not go back to be a younger man, that he became much happier (he was quite unhappy) as he got older, and that his late 60s were when things started to get really good.

I wonder why this is.
posted by OmieWise at 8:33 AM on January 10, 2005

blue, blue.
posted by jenovus at 9:44 AM on January 10, 2005

Happy happy happy!
posted by hal incandenza at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2005

Whoa, I didn't know my university had a Professor of Happiness. Obviously, majoring in Chemistry was a huge mistake.
posted by alsorises at 9:18 PM on January 10, 2005

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