A new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper called "International Happiness," by economists David G. Blanchflower of Dartmouth College in the U.S. and Andrew J. Oswald of the University of Warwick in England, offers some insights.
Blanchflower and Oswald give an overview of findings, in a number of nations, about factors that are associated statistically with either increased or decreased levels of reported well-being. Among the characteristics that they say have been shown to be linked, in people in a substantial number of nations, to a greater likelihood of happiness, are being:
- Young or old (rather than in midlife)
- Financially well-off
- Physically healthy
- A person who exercises
- Someone who eats a diet that contains lots of fruits and vegetables
- Not overweight.
In other words, if your mother or father advised you to eat right and exercise, get a good education, get a good job and get married, they had a point: People who are successful in following those pieces of advice are, statistically speaking, more likely to be among the happy. (However, if mom and/or dad also advised you to have children, you may want to note: The economists report that, at least in the U.S., having children at home is associated with less happiness.)
Some other interesting findings about the U.S. that Blanchflower and Oswald report:
- In the U.S., self-employed people are likely to be happier than other people earning about the same amount.
- Unemployment is linked to a lot of unhappiness -- and, even among those employed, there is a strong association between job insecurity and unhappiness.
- Overall, Americans' happiness level has not increased since the 1970s, and may be a little lower.
What factors are associated with greater levels of happiness in a country as a whole? Here's what the authors of the working paper "International Happiness" report:
"Happy countries are disproportionately rich, educated, democratic, trusting, and low-unemployment." (Quotation © 2011 by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald.)