Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Keys to happiness: Altruism and a non-neurotic spouse

Want to be happy? 
A 26-year study of Germans suggests it's not that hard.

  • Marry someone who's not neurotic.
  • Focus more on friends and family, less on material goods.
  • Get involved in making the world a better place.
  • Have a job but also enough time for leisure.
  • Stay physically active.
  • For men, don't be underweight. For women, don't be obese.
Other interesting findings:

-- Finding a partner who is similar to oneself doesn't seem to be linked to long-term happiness, despite some research suggesting that partners with similar personalities are likely to be happier.

-- Being neurotic oneself makes one even more unhappy, but being with someone who is neurotic has a substantial effect on life satisfaction and doesn't get better no matter how long one is married.

-- "Women whose partners give high priority to family goals are significantly happier than women whose partners give family matters low priority."

-- Being involved in religion (in the German study either Christianity or Islam) correlated with spending more time on volunteer activities, and higher priority to altruistic and family goals and therefore higher levels of happiness

-- "The evidence indicates that people who consistently prioritize non zero-sum altruistic goals or family goals are more satisfied with life than people who prioritize goals relating to their own career and material success. Giving priority to altruistic goals is strongly association with higher life satisfaction." In fact, "prioritizing success and material goals is actually harmful to life satisfaction."

-- Working too little is worse than working too much (presumably because you don't have enough money), but not having work at all is worst of all.

-- For men, being underweight is associated with lower life satisfaction. Obese women (a body mass index of over 30) were relatively unhappy, but women who were overweight (BMI of between 25–29.9) has average levels of life satisfaction.

Read the full article at USA today
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