Happiness is often cited as a key determinant in longevity. Studies of centenarians show that having a positive outlook contributes to hitting the 100-year mark, and that living a healthy and happy life can help prevent illness and delay death. The Origins of Happiness study presented at the London School of Economics well-being conference in December of 2016 reveals the top factors that contribute to people’s life satisfaction and overall happiness. It turns out that one’s financial status has much less influence on the happiness scale than does one’s mental and physical health, as well as the health of one’s relationships.

The Origins of Happiness Study

Economist Lord Richard Layard and team tracked survey data from 4 countries to determine what most influences one’s happiness. They discovered several notable trends:

  • Focusing on lowering one’s anxiety and depression increases one’s mental well-being by 20%, while focusing on reducing poverty only decreases misery by 5%.
  • The biggest indicator of a child’s happiness as an adult isn’t academic achievement, but emotional health, which is largely influenced by the school he/she is attending.
  • Differences in income can explain a mere 1% of the discrepancy in happiness levels within a community, while mental health differences explain over 4% of the discrepancy between happiness levels.
  • Having a significant other contributes more heavily to happiness than does one’s education level. Previous data indicates that marriage is worth more than $100,000 of annual income regardless of gender.
  • The United States, Australia, and Germany have all experienced great gains in living standards; however, average happiness levels have not enjoyed such a surge.

Based on the results of the study, researchers are advocating for a government refocus on what Layard describes as “well-being creation” over “wealth creation.” Layard explains: “In the past, the state has successively taken on poverty, unemployment, education and physical health. But equally important now are domestic violence, alcoholism, depression and anxiety conditions, alienated youth, exam-mania and much else. These should become center stage.”

In addition to working on improving one’s physical and mental health, it’s important to foster nurturing and generosity-filled friendships. Studies have shown that friendship helps tackle depression. A good mood and positive outlook are contagious!

Not Happy? Try These Tips!

Layard is also the founder of the organization Action for Happiness, with the mission to spread happiness and fulfillment. Action for Happiness highlights 10 Keys for Living Happier, designated by the acronym GREAT DREAM.

  • Giving: Being of service to others
  • Relating: Connecting with other people
  • Exercising: Nurturing your physical health
  • Awareness: Living mindfully and in the present
  • Trying Out: Engaging in life by learning new things
  • Direction: Working towards goals
  • Resilience: Developing tools to help you bounce back from challenges
  • Emotions: Finding the silver lining in confronting emotions
  • Acceptance: Being comfortable in your skin
  • Meaning: Being part of something bigger than yourself

It’s the start of a brand new year, so why not wake up each day with a GREAT DREAM in mind and practice!