People often turn to material goods in the quest for happiness, however, they find that the "next best thing" is always soon to be replaced. This begins a cycle of constantly chasing the best material items to fill a void in one's life. Research shows that healthy relationships, rather than possession, is what really drives people to be happy.
Studies have found that having solid relationships with friends, in addition to mental and physical health are more important when it comes to happiness than income. These findings suggest that governments should focus their efforts on the well-being of citizens, rather than their income.
Studies have revealed that improving people's relationships and health can reduce depression and anxiety 20%, compared to a mere 5% percent reduction if all of the focus was on decreasing poverty.
Helping the society combat depression and anxiety is also financially beneficial in itself, as costs would be recovered through an increased rate of employment and a reduction in the cost of health care. While income inequality is only a part of 1% of the variation in happiness levels of people, mental health accounts for over 4%.
From an early age, children are impacted by their schools which can go on to determine their mental health. The largest factor in a child growing up to be a healthy adult is their early emotional health. Studies have shown that as children turn into adults, having a spouse in life plays a larger role in their overall satisfaction with life than their level of education.
Another study that has shown that the happiness of people relies on their relationships and mental health was done in the U.S., Britain, Germany, and Australia. While there have been large increases in living standards in these countries, there has been no evidence of an increase in happiness.
While governments fight to reduce poverty and unemployment, it is important to realize that it is equally important to focus on issues such as domestic violence, depression, alcoholism, alienated youth, and anxiety. These are the issues that should be at the epicenter of the government's concern when it comes to the health of the citizens.
Money Cannot Buy Happiness, but Low-Income May Lower Health
Having a low income can be a hindrance to having strong relationships and being in optimal health. People who are living in poverty often struggle with mental and physical health. Studies have shown that 9% of people who live below the federal poverty line have serious mental distress, as opposed to a mere 1.2% of people who live above the poverty line. One part of this is that poverty worsens the emotional distress of adverse life events such as divorce, poor health, and isolation.
That said, people who suffer from serious mental stress are more likely than those who are in perfect mental health to develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, COPD, and heart disease. Even more so, as income increases, fewer people are diagnosed with a serious psychological disease.
However, an increasing can only be associated with an improved mental state and happiness to a point. In terms of emotional health, once a family reaches an income of $75,000 per year, their level of life satisfaction does not increase with any more income.
Happiness Varies Throughout Life
There has been evidence that shows people in their 40s may experience a period of decreased happiness in comparison with the rest of their lives.
Happiness is typically very high during childhood, and gradually decreases when one turns 18, and then reaching its low point throughout the 40s. Young people find happiness in extraordinary experiences, while as one ages, the smaller things in life is what brings true happiness. Life satisfaction scores may have peaks and valleys along the way, but this is an overall finding.
By the time someone turns 50 years old, happiness begins to increase until the end of life, or if a chronic health condition comes along. Older adults may find themselves to be happier than middle-aged adults because older adults are exposed to less stress, and are able to regulate their emotions better. Older adults are also able to come to terms with their life without having further expectations that are not met.
Friendship Helps Fight Depression
Having solid relationships with friends plays a large part in one's happiness for a good reason. Friendships can help people successfully recuperate from depression, encourage a good mood, and leave a positive outlook on life. This happiness is contagious throughout social groups.
The tips for leading a healthier life spell out the words "great dream":
- Giving: Help other people
- Relating: Create strong connections
- Exercising: Stay physically healthy
- Acceptance: Have confidence in yourself
- Trying Out: Try new things
- Direction: Create goals for yourself
- Resilience: Be able to bounce back
- Emotions: Find the good in things
- Awareness: Be mindful
- Meaning: Help to be a part of something bigger than you
Happiness creates a positive feedback loop, which leads to health benefits. For example, you are more likely to have positive emotions if you are overall happy and satisfied in your life. Sincere happiness allows you to open up and become more aware of the needs of others.
While you may keep looking for happiness in an item that is tangible, remember that true happiness lies within your mind and body. This can only be achieved through intangible things in life, such as solid relationships and an overall well-being.