I bet you’re not surprised to learn that studies show a strong relationship between health and happiness. In fact happiness is actually linked to health more strongly than it is to wealth.
We’ve all heard it said that money doesn’t buy happiness.. Well, to some extent that’s true, but not entirely. The wealthy as a group are happier than the poor, and wealthier countries are happier than poor ones. But only a little happier. While it’s true, according to studies, that deprivation and poverty are very bad for happiness, once the per capita income has reached a certain level, getting richer does not increase the happiness quotient of a country. And perhaps not of the individual.
But how do we define happiness? It comprises not only contentment, but also self-worth and dignity. And how do we measure it? One existing resource is the World Database of Happiness, which is based on numerous surveys and polls. Rating their happiness on a scale of 1 – 10, Americans and Canadians average 7.4 (pretty good), but with a quotient of 8.5 the people of Costa Rica are the happiest in the world. Though it is not a wealthy nation, Costa Rica has a good climate, long life expectancy, a stable democratic government, and comparatively little violence.
However, people in poor nations may feel as happy as those in wealthy ones simply because they expect less. And those who are well off, eager to be more so, may not be satisfied.
Research tells us that having friends, love, respect, social support, and a sense of being in control—as well as optimism and a positive attitude—tend in the long run to make people happier and healthier. That is certainly an excellent wellness goal.
And here’s the kicker: aging, with its undeniable physical decline and looming sense of mortality, is not so depressing after all. Based on a survey of 340,000 Americans, researchers at the National Academy of Sciences discovered that, in most people, a sense of personal well-being actually increases after age 50, regardless of gender or life circumstances.
This correlates with other research that found “a U-shaped curve” of happiness—with the youngest and oldest people being happiest—in virtually every country. No one knows for sure why people become increasingly happier after midlife. Perhaps all that accumulated wisdom, an acceptance of life and its uncertainties, and even changes in brain chemistry may play a role whatever the reason, it’s helpful and reassuring to know that the aging process can bring joy and satisfaction.
Now I can’t wait for my next birthday in August. Yes, I’ll be 83 then. (Picture above I’m 80!)