Weekly research roundup: Danish DNA, Katy Perry, and self-control can make you happier

Happiness research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

Danish DNA – Research out of the University of Warwick found that the closer a nation’s DNA is to Denmark’s (the happiest country), the happier it is.

Don’t put off happiness – Research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that well-being and life satisfaction improved at retirement, dipped a few years later, and stabilized around age 70. In the end, retirement doesn’t make you much happier than before.

Sing along – Research by Spotify and the University of Groningen explored the relationship between songs and emotions, finding that “Birthday” by Katy Perry and “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors produce happiness.

Glass two-thirds full – Research by PsychTests found that people who are happiest, most satisfied with relationships, most resilient to stress, and subjectively healthiest aren’t extreme optimists. Instead, on a scale of 1-100, they rank around 63-68 on optimism.

Move to Louisiana – Research out of Harvard and the Vancouver School identified the happiest cities in America. The top five are all in Louisiana – Lafayette, Houma, Shreveport-Bossier City, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria – and New York City is the unhappiest. In general, growing and metropolitan areas tend to be unhappier.

Surprise me – A survey of 2,000 Brits by DoubleTree suggested that little surprises are what make us happiest. 82 percent of people said the best things in life are unexpected, and their top five happy moments included finding money you forgot about, the sun shining, getting an unexpected discount at the cash register, getting something for free, and climbing into bed with fresh sheets.

Control yourself, man! – Research in the Journal of Personality suggests that people with more self-control are happier.

Mixing business and pleasure – A LinkedIn study found that 46 percent of professionals believe work friendships are important to their happiness. This is particularly true of millennials, 67% of whom would share things like salary, relationships, and family issues with coworkers.

Photo by Flickr user col&tasha


Weekly research roundup: Here are the happiest languages and vowels

Happiness research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

There’s an “i” in happiness – Researchers in Germany found that pronouncing an “i” sound – which contracts your facial muscles into a semi-smile – makes you happier, while an “o” sound – which produces a less chipper facial expression – makes you sadder. They also found that words with “i” tend to be more positive (“like”), while words with “o” tend to be more negative (“alone”).

Talk happy – Researchers from the University of Vermont found that Spanish, Portuguese, and English are the happiest languages. They picked 100,000 popular words from 10 languages and asked 5 million native speakers (total) to rate how positive or negative they are. Although all the languages had a positive bias – more positive words than negative ones – Chinese was the least happy.

Thanks, moms – A study of 315 same-sex couples in Australia found that children to same-sex couples had 6% higher physical health and family cohesion than children to heterosexual couples.

Don’t quit Facebook – A study out of Kansas State University found that people who take smartphone breaks during work report higher happiness and well-being. Using social media apps like Facebook and Twitter has more of a positive effect than playing games. Participants used their smartphones an average of 22 minutes during the work day.

Put up the fence – According to a pan-European study by the UK Office for National Statistics, connections to your community aren’t associated with higher levels of happiness.

Get your priorities straight – According to a study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education of 10,000 middle and high school students, students care more about achievement than happiness or caring for others – and believe their parents and friends do, too.

Beware the big 3-0 – Research has shown that career satisfaction dips in your 30s, and a study out of Australia suggests that it’s because time pressure at work increases (as new recruits ask for help and mentoring) and coworker support wanes (as you compete for promotions).

Adapted photo by Flickr user TobiasMik WhatWeDo



Weekly research roundup: Swimming, owning a business, and getting divorced can make you happier

happiness Research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

Chief happiness officer – According to the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor U.S. Report, owners of established businesses are significantly happier than owners of new businesses and non-business owners. Women owners of established businesses are even happier.

Dive in – Regular swimming can increase your positivity by about a third in just a month, reported British Gas SwimBritain. It can also improve sleep, energy, and fitness levels.

Go all the way – According to a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, the psychological effects of casual sex may depend on your personality. People who are “sociosexually unrestricted,” or have a tendency for casual sex, may feel increased self-esteem and satisfaction and lower depression and anxiety after the experience. People who fit this description tend to be impulsive, extroverted, strong men.

Try, try again – Analysis of the famous Grant Study found that middle-aged people in unhappy marriages are unlikely to turn things around. In these cases, divorce is more likely to lead to happiness.

Photo by Flickr user  Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games


Weekly research roundup: For a happiness boost, create some art, get some respect, or move to California

happiness Research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

Indulge your right brain – According to a report by the Brookings Institution, people who participate in the arts – creating or viewing – may be happier. Other studies have found that creating art may increase your self-image, reduce anxiety, and increase open-mindedness. One study even quantified the happiness boost: participating in the arts makes you as happy as an extra $150 per month would.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T -Researchers discovered the “local-ladder effect,” whereby having more respect in your social community increases happiness.

Choose your home wisely – According to reviews of over 500,000 workers in the 50 largest US metro areas, the happiest employees are in San Jose, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Norfork (VA), Salt Lake City, San Diego, Seattle, Oklahoma, San Antonio, and Austin, respectively.

Influential dads – Feeling loved by our fathers may be more important to our later happiness than feeling loved by our mothers. Even with a loving mother, rejection or hostility from our fathers can increase the likelihood of depression and behavioral problems. One study suggested that we tend to learn persistence and tenacity from our fathers, not our mothers.

Stay at home, mom – In a study of 28 countries, married women who stayed at home were slightly happier than women who worked full-time.

Photo by Flickr user cleansurf2


Weekly research roundup: Millennial dads are less happy and more selfish

happiness Research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

Happy Father’s Day – Millennial dads may be less satisfied than their Gen X and Boomer counterparts. According to the 2014 DDB Life Style Study, millennial dads are less likely to say raising a child brings them a lot of happiness (82%, vs. 87% of Gen Xers and 92% of Boomers) and more likely to say parenting is a real burden (41%, vs. 25% and 16%). Also, more millennial dads admit to not enjoying spending time with their kids (29%, vs. 22% and 14%) and preferring to spend time with friends (35%, vs. 20% and 12%). Finally, millennial dads are more likely to say their own happiness is more important than the happiness of others (49%, vs. 33% and 20%).

Rise and shine – Ikea’s “Life at Work” survey found that we’re happier if we wake up quickly, or take the time to cuddle, have sex with, hug, or kiss someone in the morning. Ikea surveyed over 80,000 people in eight cities.

Let’s hit the sack – According to a study presented at SLEEP 2014, the more in sync a couple’s sleep schedule is, the happier the wife is.

Photo by Flickr user Gwenaël Piase

Weekly research roundup: Women breadwinning isn’t so bad – for the men

Happiness research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

Breadwinners win some, lose some – A MONEY survey of over 1,000 married adults found that when women make the same or more as men, couples are more in love, happier, and had significantly happier husbands. They speculated that these arrangements are more egalitarian. But overall, women who earn more than their husbands are less likely to say they’re very in love and they worry more about finances.

Avoid the haters – According to a study out of the University of Colorado-Boulder, obesity has a big effect on happiness only when you live in an area where it’s uncommon. If obesity is the norm – and, presumably, you aren’t being judged for your weight – it doesn’t make you much unhappier. Overall, the judgment of others has a greater unhappiness effect on women than on men.

Faster food! – A study from the University of Toronto found that living in an area with lots of fast-food restaurants makes you more impatient and less able to savor pleasurable experiences, like a beautiful hike. And even making people think of fast food in the lab – by showing them a photo – causes them to make impatient decisions, like hurrying through a task, desiring time-saving tools more, and saving less for the future.


Weekly research roundup: We’re more stressed at home than at work

Happiness research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

Home is where the stress is – A study from Pennsylvania State University found that people were more stressed at home than at work. Not only that, but women (but not men) were happier at work than at home. The researchers suggested that the difficulty of balancing work and family may come out at home, particularly for women juggling lots of chores and domestic responsibilities.

Ditch the pint of ice cream – According to a study out of the University of Minnesota, comfort foods might not actually be comforting us. After watching a disturbing video, people’s moods improved equally after eating a comfort food, a food they liked, a granola bar, and nothing at all.

Strap on your helmet – A Clemson study compared people’s emotions on different types of transportation, and found that we are happiest when biking – followed by riding in a car, driving a car, and taking the train or bus. This included commuting and non-commuting travel, so that could explain some of the findings.

Go Greek – The Gallup-Purdue Index, a survey of 30,000 university graduates, found that graduates who belonged to sororities or fraternities were happier after college. They were more engaged at work (43% vs. 38%), had higher well-being, had more supportive social lives, were healthier, and felt less stressed about money (possibly because they took out fewer student loans, 42% vs. 49%).

Photo by Flickr user JD Hancock 


Weekly research roundup: Positive emotions are highest in Latin America

Research roundup

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

It’s been a slow week for happiness news, but luckily Gallup swooped in (on my birthday, no less) with a comprehensive report on positive emotion in the world.

In 2013, Gallup asked about 1,000 adults in 138 countries about their positive experiences the day before. Did they experience lots of enjoyment? Laugh or smile a lot? Feel well-rested? Get treated with respect? Learn or do something interesting?

Those results were compiled into a Positive Experience Index. Latin America came out shining, taking 9 of the top 10 spots alongside Denmark. Latin American has a “cultural tendency . . . to focus on the positives in life,” Gallup explained. 

Syria scored the lowest for any country ever recorded, with 31% of people feeling well-rested or experiencing enjoyment, and only 25% learning or doing something interesting.  

Overall, over 7/10 people worldwide experienced lots of enjoyment, laughed or smiled a lot, felt well-rested, and got treated with respect. 51% learned or did something interesting. 

Here are the scores (not percentages). The average index landed at 71, putting the United States above average: 

Countries with highest positive emotion

Photo by Flickr user Wha’ppen

Weekly research roundup: Forget what you know about money, having kids, and happiness

happiness research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

Thanks, kids – Contrary to popular belief, a new study suggests that parents are actually happier than non-parents. The reason? Over time, the happiness of non-parents has fallen. This holds for parents with any number of children, and with children of all ages.

Put down the credit card – The common wisdom is that experiences, not things, can buy happiness, but new research from San Francisco State University says that isn’t the case for everyone. The heaviest consumers of material things don’t get a boost from spending on experiences, probably because they’re choosing the wrong ones (that don’t fit their personality).

Forget the Ivies – Having a great experience at college, rather than attending a better university, leads to happiness later in life and work, reported a study by Gallup and Purdue University. Having a great experience covered factors like inspiring professors, extracurricular activities, and internships.

Give me your word – A new study showed that having people keep their promises to you makes you happy, but having them exceed their promises doesn’t give you much of a boost.

California dreamin’ – New graduates will find the most career happiness in San Jose, Miami, and Los Angeles, reported CareerBliss. The ranking took into account job satisfaction as well as salary. San Diego and San Francisco also made it into the top six.

Photo by Flickr user mujitra

Weekly research roundup: Australians, 45-year-olds, and techies are happier

happiness research

This is a weekly series on the latest happiness research. Learn and be merry! 

Howdy, mate – Australia was ranked as the happiest industrialized nation in a study by the OECD. This is the fourth year it claimed the title.

40s and fabulous – Middle-aged people (over 45) are the happiest group in the UK, according to a recent study. 60 percent said they were content, which the researchers attribute to strong relationships with friends and family (83 percent).

Becuase I’m geeky – Professionals in the tech industry have the happiest careers, according to a ranking by CareerBliss. The three happiest jobs were Java developer, embedded software engineer, and .NET developer.

Forget good fences: A study in Wales showed that people with neighbors who help each other out had a 42% chance of rating their happiness as a 9 or 10.

Splurge away – Owning luxury items, particularly pens and chocolate, does increase life satisfaction. But simply using them without owning them – just tasting the chocolate? – is associated with lower satisfaction. In other news, French women recently rated chocolate as better than sex.

Close the door on your way out – People with private offices are more satsified at work than people with open-plan offices or cubicles, reported a study from the University of Sydney.

Grab the vacuum – Newlyweds who share chores equally are more likely to stay happily married, reported a study out of the University of Illinois.

Photo by Flickr user St3f4n