Which people are happiest?

Happiness doesn’t change much with age:

…interviews with representative samples of people of all ages reveal that no time of life is notably happier or unhappier than others….

Source: “Who is happy?” from Psychological Science

Men and women are about equal overall. Women show more highs and lows but the average comes out nearly the same:

In the 1980’s collaborative survey of 16 nations, 80% of men and 80% of women said that they were at least “fairly satisfied” with life… A similar result appeared in a study of 18.032 university students surveyed in 30 countries…

Race doesn’t have a huge effect either:

African-Americans, for example, report nearly as much happiness as European-Americans and are actually slightly less vulnerable to depression…

Culture does have a big effect:

Interestingly, nations differ strikingly in happiness, ranging from Portugal, where about 10% of people say they are very happy, to the Netherlands, where about 40% of people say the same… Nations differ markedly in happiness even when income differences are controlled for…

Being in a rich country makes people happier than living in a poor country:

…the correlation between national wealth and well-being is positive…

What about being rich or poor within a country? Once you can afford life’s necessities, more money makes surprisingly little difference:

Wealth, it seems, is like health: Its absence can breed misery, yet having it is no guarantee of happiness.

What personality traits do happy people have in common?

…four inner traits mark happy people: self-esteem, a sense of personal control, optimism and extraversion.

And relationships are key:

…people who can name several intimate friends with whom they share their intimate concerns freely are healthier, less likely to die prematurely, and happier than people who have few or no such friends.

Married people are happier (but, we have to take this with a grain of salt because 1) the stats do not include people who were married and got divorced because they were unhappy, 2) as the study does reference, happy people are more likely to marry.)

…over the 1970’s and 1980’s, 24% of never-married adults, but 39% of married adults, told the National Opinion Research Center that they were very happy…

People involved in fulfilling work are happier. Religious people are happier too.

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