Entries in Happiness (15)


Binge Drinking College Students Report Being Happier

Hemera/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- The negative effects of binge drinking are well-known, which makes the findings of new research released on Monday linking binge drinking and reported happiness in college students troubling to many health experts.

The survey of 1,595 undergraduate students revealed binge drinking students report being happier than their non-binge drinking peers.  The results were released Monday morning at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver.

Specifically, the survey revealed that happiness was directly related to “status” -- with wealthy, white, male, heterosexual and/or Greek-affiliated students being happier than “lower status” students.

However, in “lower status” students -- in other words, less wealthy, female, non-white, homosexual, and/or non-Greek affiliated students -- those who binge drink report levels of social satisfaction that are comparable to their high status counterparts.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than four drinks per session for females and consuming more than five drinks per session for males.

“Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for higher social status in college and is correspondingly related to greater social satisfaction,” writes Carolyn Hsu, lead author on the study and chair of Sociology and Anthropology at Colgate University.

In other words, binge drinking to “fit in” may actually lead to increased happiness -- a phenomenon that does not appear to have gone unnoticed by the alcohol industry.

“The insight that people drink to attain social status is not [new],” says David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  “Alcohol marketers intentionally market social aspirations -- for example, an ad for Johnnie Walker from the 1990s had the bottle suspended from wires with other objects floating around it, like a mobile -- and the tag-line was ‘Upwardly mobile.’”

While upward mobility through binge drinking may help lower status students attain happiness, drinking may also be necessary to help higher status students maintain happiness.  Another finding in the study is that high status students who do not binge drink report lower levels of social satisfaction than their binge drinking, high status peers.

“Binge drinking may also be a prerequisite for receiving the full benefits of high status group membership,” writes Hsu.

The association between binge drinking and social happiness among both high- and low-status students is a link that doctors find treacherous.

“I find the overall information to be very sad,” says Dr. Edwin Salsitz, chair of the Education and Program Committee of the New York Society of Addiction Medicine.  “Binge drinking is dangerous on many different levels, yet these students seem to derive benefits from this behavior.”

Other experts suggest these findings must be interpreted with caution.

“Since [the study] is descriptive and not experimental, the two end points may not be linked,” says Dr. Fulton T. Crews, director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  “It is possible drinking reflects satisfaction for some, [but] changes mood, creating dissatisfaction for others.”

Other doctors suggest that the associations may not be causal at all -- in other words, happier students and binge drinking might just happen to appear together, without one influencing the other.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Many Men Are Happiest When Doing Chores

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many men are happiest when making an equal contribution to household chores, according to a University of Cambridge study that concludes what many women might have considered unimaginable.

“Contrary to expectations, they found that men, not women, benefited from a less traditional gender role divide in household chores,” the introduction to the study reads.

And women weren’t the only ones left scratching their heads.  The researchers themselves were surprised with the findings.

“The academics expected to find that men’s work-family conflict rose, and their well-being fell, when they did more housework,” a University of Cambridge news release states.  ”In practice, they found the opposite, with conflict falling, and well-being going up.”

The professor who conducted the study was traveling and unavailable to comment.

The study was conducted across seven European countries and tens of thousands of participants were asked how much time they spent on tasks such as cooking, washing, cleaning, shopping and property maintenance.  They then weighed work-life conflict with other measures of their well-being, which provided the surprising results.

Researchers attributed their findings to two factors: They believe more men support gender equality and women are more assertive than in the past.

The researchers said men are actually uncomfortable when they are not taking equal responsibility for housework.  And history and habit might also contribute to such guilt.

“[The results] suggest that men may be uncomfortably conscious of work getting in the way of their doing a fair share of chores at home, whereas women have long been used to doing a ‘double shift,’” the introduction says.

Women’s attitudes are also evolving, allowing them to voice their concerns.

“Women are becoming more assertive and making their dissatisfaction with lazy partners plain,” the news release states.

The research, titled “Gendered Lives,” which includes the findings on men and household chores, analyzes several other aspects of gender equality as well, including equality at home and in the workplace.

While this aspect of the gender gap seems to be closing, the researchers saw mixed results in other areas.

“Prospects for the future remain mixed.  On the one hand, an investigation into the business case for closing the workplace gender gap was ‘not encouraging,’” the news release states.  ”At the same time, however, there are grounds for optimism.  Regardless of policy regimes, researchers found evidence that across Europe, the gap between women and men in terms of how much paid and unpaid work both do, is closing.”

Overall, the researchers believe gender equality is moving, however slowly, in the right direction.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nothing Funny About Self-Deception, Researchers Say

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J.) -- Everyone enjoys a good laugh now and then. Well, almost everyone, according to a Rutgers University study.

As you’ve probably discovered, there are people who just don’t see the humor in anything. Take them to a comedy club and you may as well have left them in the car because they’re just not going to crack a smile no matter what.

Rutgers anthropologists Robert Lynch and Robert Trivers claim the problem with non-laughers is that they are masters in self-deception, that is, they don’t pick up on the absurdities in life. As a result, these seemingly joyless people are missing out on what the rest of us might find hilarious.

Lynch and Trivers explain, “Humor often involves seeing something from a novel angle, with surprising and pleasing effects. But if you are practicing self-deception and blocking out certain angles, you will, when these angles are exposed, fail to see the absurdity and fail to enjoy the humor.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Happiness Isn't Always What It's Cracked Up to Be

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- “Don’t worry, be happy” may seem like good advice, but studies show that being too happy can actually backfire on you.

Yale University psychology professor June Gruber pulls no punches in revealing the downside of overdoing happiness, warning it can make people more gullible and selfish as well as less creative and unsuccessful.

Not only that but Gruber says, “Research indicates that very high levels of positive feelings predict risk-taking behaviors, excess alcohol and drug consumption, binge eating, and may lead us to neglect threats.”

Studies suggest those who are happier at a younger age get held back professionally because they tend to quit school earlier, leaving them at a disadvantage compared to those who seek more education and find better paying jobs.  What’s more, happy people who have jobs are usually less inclined to switch careers, which may again hinder them from earning more money elsewhere.

Another problem with being too happy is that studies have shown that happiness junkies tend to make more stereotypic judgment calls, for instance, believing that work done by a male is better than the same job performed by a woman even if the results are identical.

Eventually, it became a vicious circle as the more people strive for happiness, the worse they feel in the obsessive goal to satisfy the question, “Am I having fun yet?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


What's the Happiest Age of All?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new survey by Friends Reunited, a website in Britain, finds that the age of 33 seems to be just the time when people have it all together, at least according to folks over 40.

Seventy-percent of the 40 and older crowd chose 33 as the age they were the happiest, or as one psychologist put it, the age when one has "shaken off childhood naivete and the wild scheming of teenaged years without losing the energy and enthusiasm of youth."

Just six percent of the respondents said their college years were their happiest times while 16 percent seemed more content during their childhood when naivete was something to be desired.

As for other things that make adults happy, one in three said having kids while 20 percent linked their jobs to real fulfillment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Attending Religious Services Makes People Happier, Survey Finds

George Doyle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you’re down in the dumps and not feeling especially happy about anything, a trip to a religious service could be the thing that puts you in a better mood.

Findings in the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows people who attend services at a church, synagogue or mosque frequently experience more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions than folks who attend less often or never at all.

Researchers conducted the survey by asking at least 1,000 Americans each day about the positive and negative emotions they experienced the previous day.

Positive emotions include smiling and laughter, enjoyment, happiness and learning or doing something interesting.

Negative emotions include sadness, worry, stress and anger.

Overall, 52 percent of Americans reported experiencing none of the four negative emotions the previous day, but 30 percent did report experiencing two or more of them.  Nearly five percent said they experienced all four in one day.

Similarly, 55 percent of Americans reported experiencing all four positive emotions at least once in any given week.  Four percent experienced none of the positive emotions the previous day, and about five percent experienced only one positive emotion.

The survey, which is based on interviews with more than 329,000 U.S. adults, found that frequent church-goers average 3.36 positive emotions per day compared to an average of 3.08 among people who never attend.

In addition, frequent church-goers also report experiencing a mood boost on Sundays while most other Americans see a decline in their mood.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is Happiness Declining? Twitter Analysis Says It Is

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images(BURLINGTON, Vt.) -- From what celebrities are doing at any given minute to the little things that irk ordinary people, there’s a lot to learn from Twitter.

Researchers at the University of Vermont used the social media service to learn about people’s happiness and, through an analysis of billions of words used in millions of tweets, determined that societal happiness is on the decline.

Over a period of three years, scientists gathered 46 billion words found in tweets by 63 million users around the world and, with the help of a web site, determined the “happiness” of the 10,000 most common words in the English language. "Laughter," for instance, got an 8.5 on a scale of one to nine, and “food” came in at 7.44. “Truck” was a better-than-average 5.48. “Greed” registered a 3.06; “terrorist,” 1.30.

“We see that after a gradual upward trend that ran from January to April 2009, the overall time series has shown a gradual downward trend, accelerating somewhat over the first half of 2011,” wrote the researchers, led by Peter Dodds, a scientist in the University of Vermont’s department of mathematics and statistics. The study is published online in PLoS ONE.

During 2009 and 2010, the happiest days, based on the number of positive words used, were Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and other holidays.

“All of these observations are sensible, and reflect a strong (though not universal) degree of social synchrony,” the authors wrote.

The non-annual event that was the most positive day was April 29, 2011, the day Prince William and Kate Middleton were married.  Tweets on this day were full of positive words such as “wedding,” “beautiful” and “kiss.”

“Negative days typically arise from unexpected societal trauma due for example to a natural disaster or death of a celebrity,” according to the study.

The day the world learned of the death of Osama bin Laden ranked as the day of the lowest level of happiness, judging by the frequency of negative words like “dead,” “death” and “killed.”

The Chilean earthquake in February 2010 also ranked low in happiness, as did the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the October 2010 slew of storms in the U.S. Declines in happiness were also evident after news of the U.S. economic bailout and the spread of the swine flu.

The researchers also found that happiness peaks over the weekend and dips on Mondays and Tuesdays.

But they also say while their study is an interesting look at how people feel on a given day or after a specific event, the findings don’t necessarily reflect people’s overall happiness.

“There is an important psychological distinction between an individual’s current, experiential happiness and their longer term, reflective evaluation of their life,” they wrote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


‘Happiest Woman’ Succeeds in Finding Work-Life Balance

Courtesy Mary Claire Orenic(NEW YORK) -- Mary Claire Orenic of California may just be “the happiest woman in America,” according to USA Today.

At 50 years old, Orenic is a senior manager at a global company.  She has a husband she adores and a son on his way to college.  She might put in 45 to 60 hours at her job during the week but unwinds at the beach on the weekend.

According to experts, Orenic exemplifies a high level of well-being for women in the 45- to 55-year-old age group -- the largest demographic in the U.S. today.

Gail Sheehy, a journalist and the author of  the 1970s best-seller Passages, told ABC News that this group was in particular crisis.

“This generation of women at midlife has a lower level of well-being than any other generation,” Sheehy told ABC News.  “It’s always been that [when] women got to their 40s and 50s, they were happier than at any other time in their lives.  This generation is the most stressed and distressed.”

USA Today asked Gallup-Healthways to identify what contributed to well-being in the midlife age group.

In addition to a good marriage, a strong support network of friends and a positive attitude is important.  Gallup-Healthways found that having a career and finding a good work-life balance also helped. For the most part, Orenic has all of this.

Pollsters said that many women at this midlife stage still worked full-time. Orenic said she had no plans to slow down.

“I need that fulfillment,” she said. “I’ve always worked.  I’ve usually worked 40 hours. I think I’ll do that when I retire.”

Gallup-Healthways’ data also found that having a flexible work schedule and a short commute was also important for happiness in  the 45-55 age group.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Says Foot 'Bawlers' Are Happier, Have Higher Self-Esteem

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(BLOOMINGTON, Ind.) -- There might not be crying in baseball but there is in college football and psychologists say that's a good thing.

According to a new study released Monday, researchers found that players who tear up after losing a game tend to have higher self-esteem than those who "man-up" and don't show their true emotions.

Researchers at Indiana University-Bloomington also say that college athletes who display physical affection toward other players seem to be happier in whatever they do.

Study researcher Jesse Steinfeldt remarked that players who "are emotionally expressive are more likely to have a mental edge on and off the field."

They mentioned how the media was wrong to have singled out former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow for crying after his team lost a big game in 2009, even labeling him Tim "Tearbow."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hawaii Is the Happiest State in the Nation, Survey Finds

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If Hawaii’s sunshine and beautiful beaches aren’t enough to get you to travel to The Aloha State, perhaps the happiness of its citizens will do the trick.

Hawaii is the happiest state in the nation in 2011, according to a new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. America's 50th state ranked number one, followed by North Dakota and Alaska.  At the bottom of the list is West Virginia.

The Well-Being Index score is an average of several factors, including job satisfaction, physical health, emotional health, access to health care and community satisfaction.  Scores are calculated on an ascending scale of 0 to 100.  The Well-Being Index is based on surveys of more than 177,000 Americans conducted between January and June 2011.

Here are the 50 U.S. states in order of their well-being scores:

Hawaii: 71.1
North Dakota: 70.5
Alaska: 69.4
Nebraska: 68.4
Minnesota: 68.3
Colorado: 68.3
Utah: 68.1
New Hampshire: 67.9
Iowa: 67.9
Kansas: 67.8
Vermont: 67.8
Maryland: 67.8
Massachusetts: 67.7
South Dakota: 67.6
Virginia: 67.6
California: 67.5
Washington: 67.2
Oregon: 67.2
Montana: 67.1
Connecticut: 66.9
Arizona: 66.9
New Mexico: 66.8
Idaho: 66.7
Wisconsin: 66.6
Maine: 66.6
Texas: 66.6
New Jersey: 66.5
Wyoming: 66.5
North Carolina: 66.5
Rhode Island: 66.2
Illinois: 66.2
Georgia: 66.2
Delaware: 66.0
Nevada: 65.9
Pennsylvania: 65.8
Michigan: 65.8
South Carolina: 65.7
Florida: 65.4
New York: 65.2
Missouri: 65.1
Alabama: 65.1
Indiana: 64.9
Arkansas: 64.9
Oklahoma: 64.8
Tennessee: 64.7
Louisiana: 64.6
Ohio: 64.4
Mississippi: 63.6
Kentucky: 63.0
West Virginia: 62.4

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio