Here’s Hoping You’ll Be Very Happy To Have Read About This New Study

Is everybody happy? Not according to polling by the Pew Research Center. And several characteristics turn out to be significantly predictive of whether people see themselves as happy.

Thirty-four percent of adults said they’re “very happy,” with another 50 percent “pretty happy” and 15 percent “not too happy.” For all the ups and downs in the world, the figures have barely budged over the past three decades. Of the many factors tested in the study, the strongest predictor of happiness was robust health. Among those who termed their health “excellent,” 48 percent said they’re very happy. The number dropped to 32 percent among those in “good” health, 22 percent of those whose health is “only fair” and 15 percent of those in “poor” health. This might lead one to suppose that young adults (who tend to be healthy) are happier than their elders. But they aren’t: 28 percent of those age 18-29 rated themselves very happy, as did 36 percent of the 30-49s, 33 percent of the 50-64s and 38 percent of those 65 and up. Maybe that’s because young folks are less apt to be married. Married people are far more likely than unmarrieds (43 percent vs. 24 percent) to say they’re very happy.

As the study notes, the incidence of happiness has held steady even as per capita income has more than doubled—which suggests money can’t buy happiness. But a breakdown by income indicates otherwise. Twenty-four percent of people with household income under $30,000 are very happy, vs. 49 percent of those making $100,000-plus. The report resolves the paradox by saying that “what matters on the happiness front is not how much money you have, but whether you have more (or less) at any given time than everyone else.”

Though frequent churchgoers have lower average incomes than church-avoiders, they’re happier. Forty-three percent of those who attend religious services at least once a week are very happy, vs. 31 percent of those who attend once a month or less and 26 percent of those who go seldom or never. One of the most telling factors in the survey was whether a person feels rushed. Among those who “always” feel rushed, 27 percent said they’re very happy. The figure rose to 34 percent of those who “sometimes” feel rushed and to 42 percent of those who “almost never” feel rushed. Finally, pet owners will be shocked to learn there’s a negligible difference in the very-happy tally for dog owners (35 percent) vs. cat owners (36 percent). Even more shocking, people who own a dog or cat aren’t significantly more likely to be very happy than the petless (35 percent vs. 33 percent). Ah well, at least the pets themselves seem happy.