Is it possible to measure happiness? A new study, conducted for the AARP by Hearts + Mind Strategies suggests that we can measure happiness as well as delineate the factors that contribute most to people’s feelings of contentment.
The researchers polled 4,000 adults between the ages of 35 and 80 across the country. While 68% of respondents reported feeling happy, overall levels of happiness seem to be declining; this is in part due to the state of the economy. Here are six trends that emerged from the results:
1. The early fifties are a low point. People between the ages of 50 and 55 are the least likely to say they are very happy (16%). Researchers say that this is probably due to the strain people feel from caring for aging parents while also paying their children’s tuition fees. By the time people reach their late sixties, however, happiness is at a high point, with 24% feeling very happy.
2. If you’re healthy, you’re happy. One of the strongest correlations of the study is between health and happiness. The people most likely to report being very happy are also in excellent shape.
3. Friends and family matter most. By far the most important factor into people’s happiness is their relationships. 72% of respondents answered that watching loved ones succeed and showing a loved one how much they care contributed significantly to their feeling of happiness.
4. Pets over online friends. Having a relationship with a pet was found to be vital to happiness, especially for single people and older women. In contrast, out of 38 activities respondents could rank in terms of how important they were for happiness, social media connections ranked 37th.
5. Money can’t buy me love. While happiness does increase with income, less than a third of those polled said that money made them happy.
6. You have control over your happiness. The sense of control over personal happiness increases with age. Those that feel in control of their own happiness are also more than twice as happy as those who feel that their happiness is out of their hands.
Our connections with others are the strongest indicators of happiness. Even in times of hardship, how we relate to our friends and family determines how truly happy we feel.