Questioning the Science of Happiness (Infographic)

Monday, January 27, 2014 - 2:46am

Questioning the Science of Happiness (Infographic)

Happiness. A word that gets bandied about quite a bit lately, and for good reason. As the fields of neuroscience, biology, psychology, and so many others reveal the science behind our brains, we discover more about ourselves. Our moods, our emotions, our behaviors are driven by a mix of environmental factors and genetic predispositions.

The infographic above may not capture the details of the science, but it jogs a host of questions and insights. A few thoughts to chew on:

  • Married people are 10% happier than unmarried people, but having a child reduces happiness by one-quarter of 1% on average. Hmmm… doing the math (tapping finger on temple).
  • Happiness is maximized at, get this, 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Current outside temperature in Minneapolis is -11 degrees Fahrenheit. Do they even do studies measuring people’s happiness at negative temps?
  • If 94% of people in Iceland say they are happy and the warmest day of the year on average is 57 degrees Fahrenheit, does happiness decrease at the same rate when the temperature increases or decreases by one percentage point?
  • I’m writing this up at 2am because I can’t sleep. Would my questions be stated with more positive words if I read this infographic at 2pm?
  • I’m way behind my 100 hours of service in the community. Time to get moving!
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    Trent Gilliss

    is the cofounder of On Being / KTPP and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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    I found it very good news that happiness was maximized at 57 degrees Fahrenheit.....I've worked hard to reduce my ecological footprint, believing in "right sharing of earth's resources"....and have been keeping my thermostat at 55* for years. (and yes, I wear many layers and a scarf inside all winter, but it gets harder as I get older - just turned 65). So now, even thought it'll increase my footprint, maybe it's justified to bump it up 2 degrees????

    "Science of Happiness"? Most of these sources are not science-based.

    This was fun to read. I'll be showing it to my college students as an intro into the discussion of how happiness is often an inside job (even with life limitations). I'm very interested in learning more about how Mexico's satisfaction levels were gathered.

    This study just goes to show that we need to get back to basics to be truly happy. Screw the powers that be that try to medicate us and get us invested with material things. We need to think for ourselves and tear ourselves away from most of the media outlets that are programming the masses.

    Thank you Trent for all your work over the years I have derived much value and continue doing so.


    Oops! That empty space in the pie chart doesn't look like 0%.

    Attitude determines altitude. I lived in Mexico City many years though within a European community. Mexicans have an innate sense of fun; they love parties and are always ready for a laugh, amazing in a way.

    Interesting data; they did not mention service to others as a source of happiness, I find it to be a big on.

    So great to discover this "Infographic" on the site that Krysta engendered. An earlier comment was about Science of Happiness not being science-based -- Krysta is about what we in the healthcare field might call the space surrounding the intersection of Science and Outcomes. Keep up the great work. You are getting results.

    Thanks for the info line about the review process on comments that I got when I submitted my post for public view. I wrote it to fit in with how your site is developing.. I've enjoyed Krysta's work for many years after discovering her on the WAMU NPR station here in Washington DC. It is good to see your site developing despite the early hour that you've been relegated to. I'm an appreciator of inter-faith and "None of the Above" and have included links to her talks on my home-made site: . I've been in contact with David Van Nuys, Ph.D. of Shrink Rap Radio and I featrure his podcasts on the bottom of my new site in DC: I am very glad to have both his and Krysta's inputs as regular nourishment for my own personal growth. I've just become a DC state resident as a statement to myself and others that I think this country is one worth supporting as it continues to develop is place in human history. I don't expect this note to be suitable for inclusion on your website but I wanted to say that I appreciate Trent's work as well as Krysta's. Best of 2014 and onward for us all. -- Ralph Wilson, N.D., MS Acupuncture, FlexAware teacher

    My Dad used to read to me all the time. Books, comics, whatever. One of my favorites was 'Peanuts' by Charles Shultz. I remembered Charlie Brown asking Lucy what the meaning of life was. You know, at her little advice stand. So one day, at the age of seven, as I was sitting alone next to my green toy box I asked that question. Two words came. Peace and content. Although, at that age, I had never used those words before, I never forgot them. I think happiness is the meaning of life. We can try to seek it from within. We shouldn't judge others on this, though. Especially children and teens should not be oppressed from play, the arts and leisure throughout their day. They need it from time to time to refresh. They don't always have the choice to choose their schedule, or even vote, like adults do.