Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Happiness Sucks

So you know those people in your life, family or co-workers, who just ooze happiness? Who seem to be completely content with their mediocrity, ecstatic about the ordinary minutiae of their lives?

Yeah, I hate them too.

But now a new study finds that the happiest people are less wealthy, less educated, and die sooner than those who describe themselves as moderately happy.

“The highest levels of income, education and political participation were reported not by the most satisfied individuals (10 on the 10-point scale),” the authors wrote, “but by moderately satisfied individuals (8 or 9 on the 10-point scale).”

The 10s earned significantly less money than the eights and nines. Their educational achievements and political engagement were also significantly lower than their moderately happy and happy-but-not-blissful counterparts.

I suppose if you're blissfully happy, it's no curse to be less successful than the slightly-worried guy next to you. It might, however, become eventually annoying to your children, who you'll be living with since you were too happy to bother planning for retirement.

That's not the best part, though.

Reviews of studies linking health and emotions show that for people who have been diagnosed with serious illnesses, being extremely happy doesn’t always improve survival rates, Diener said. This may be because the elated don’t worry enough about issues that can have profound implications for their ability to survive their illness, he said.

“Happy people tend to be optimistic and this might lead them to take their symptoms too lightly, seek treatment too slowly, or follow their physician’s orders in a half-hearted way,” he writes.

So maybe you won't be living with your kids post-retirement after all. You'll blissfully ignore your doctor's suggestions to lose some weight and cut back on the ice cream. You'll forget to take those blood-pressure meds, because you feel great without them. You'll exercise once in a while, but who needs the stress of going to the gym every day? And then, suddenly, you and your happiness won't be a burden to the rest of us anymore.

I always knew it was cool to be mean, but who knew it could lead to success and better health as well?


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