Tag Archives: happiness

Louisville, KY Is Sorta The Epicenter of Unhappiness In America

The map below shows people’s happiness levels in the United States: red means most unhappy, yellow is neutral, blue is most happy. As you can see, the biggest area of unhappiness is in Indiana and Kentucky, right around where Louisville is. But more so, there’s a kind of concentric pattern to the entire map.

City and Rural Area Happiness Controlling for Characteristics

Around Indiana and Kentucky, there’s a circle of mostly orange in which lie Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio: level two of the inferno. Around that, there’s another circle that’s on average happier — mostly oranges and yellows, some greens, but also some reds: Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New England.

Finally, there’s the happy outer rim, the thick fourth level which is mostly blues and greens: the entire Rockies from the Dakotas and Montana down through Colorado and New Mexico to Texas and rest of the South. If you kept going, you could imagine the ring continuing in the Atlantic, looping around through Canada — upper Quebec and Ontario — before meeting itself at the US border again.

Things go downhill again on the west coast, but there’s too little data there to say what’s going on. Perhaps that’s a small part of a larger ring that goes through Mexico and the Caribbean, the mid-Atlantic and the Northwest Passage. Or perhaps that ring is mostly yellow because happiness levels, having reached a peak in the fourth circle of (un)happiness started to go down again. Or maybe, we’re looking at the third ring of a different epicenter of unhappiness, colliding with the American one. Reading tea leaves is not easy.

wave interference


The happiness data comes from a survey conducted by the CDC between 2005 and 2009. The researchers that created the map are from Harvard and the University of British Columbia.

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From Unhappy Cities (PDF), via Lifehacker

The People Who Live Long Are The Happy Ones

According to a study from Yeshiva University of hundreds of very old Ashkenazi Jews (who make up 80% of Jews worldwide), the ones that are almost 100 years old have a positive outlook towards life and are emotionally expressive. Specifically, they are optimistic, easy-going, outgoing, they laugh a lot, express their emotions openly and avoid bottling them up, and are less neurotic and more conscientious than the general population.

Students in the library at Yeshiva University


Details of the Study

The scientists wanted to find genes which help people live longer, so they looked at Ashkenazi Jews from the university’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Longevity Genes Project. That group was an easy choice for a few reasons: they already had the people’s info, Yeshiva is a Jewish university and most importantly, due to centuries of Jewish mothers asking “is she Jewish?”, the Ashkenazi are among the most genetically similar of any group worldwide. As a result, it’s easy to spot traits in the population that arise from genetic differences and therefore lots of genetic studies have been done on them. The researchers were curious if any of the personality traits that very old people possessed were inherited, so they gave them personality quizzes and ranked them on a scale of positivity which ran along the lines of two accepted personality models: the Big Five and the Life Orientation Test. What they found was that the centerians were positive and emotionally expressive people.

As we’ve seen before, scientific studies should be taken with a grain of salt, and while the study is relatively large and the effects significant, the subjects were not diverse at all, the individual trait scores were self-reported via questionnaires, the researchers used their own scale, and confirmed their feel-good hypothesis that happy people live longer. Nevertheless, this is one more notch in the belt of a large body of research showing that positive people lead healthier lives.

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From The Impact Journal On Aging, via Medical Daily and Slashdot

How To Live Forever And Avoid Regrets

How To Live Forever looks like a great new movie — trailer below.  And in keeping with the theme, here are the top deathbed regrets, so make sure to not do these things:

  • Lived the way others expected, not how they wanted
  • Worked too hard and missed out on relationships with family and friends
  • Didn’t have the courage to express their feelings
  • Didn’t stay in touch with good friends
  • Didn’t try hard enough to be happy

From SingularityHub and Inspiration and Chai, via Neatorama


Money CAN Buy Happiness

Get Rich Slowly has a two-part article on how to buy happiness with money. It’s true, money can’t buy you love or friendship, but it can still make you pretty happy if you spend it the right way. The article is a summary of a research paper called “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You’re Probably Not Spending It Right” (PDF), which  says that people are very poor judges of what will make them happy, and they end up spending their money on all the wrong things. The paper is written by a trio from Harvard, University of Virginia, and University British Columbia, so presumably they know what they’re talking about. Here’s what they suggest you do your money, instead of blowing it on your retirement like you know you want to:

  • Buy experiences, not stuff. After a month, that t-shirt or couch or stainless-steel fridge/washer/dryer combo won’t do anything for you. Instead, spend that money hanging out with your friends, or going on an awesome vacation, or both. And take pictures. In a few years, all you’ll remember is the good parts of what you did, and it’ll make the experiences seem even better. Stuff on the other hand, just ends up owning you with its constant demand of being paid off, cleaned, fixed, and upgraded.
  • Help others. If you’ve ever given a good gift, you know what this is talking about. Doing one thing to make someone else happy will make you happier than doing a dozen things for yourself. So buy people good gifts, give bums change, and help people out whenever you want. Maybe all those major religions were on to something.
  • Buy less expensive things more often, rather than just saving up for big ticket items. Do both if you can, but if it’s one or the other, ten dinners out at Applebee’s will probably make you a lot happier than one super-fancy one at Ruth’s Chris. And a cup of coffee from Starbucks every morning will probably make you happier than a new lamp.
  • Quit worrying about stuff. If it breaks, it breaks: unless you’re an emotional mess, you’ll deal with it and it won’t be the end of the world. And if you set up insurance for everything, you won’t enjoy it as much because you take it for granted. Obviously get insurance for stuff you absolutely need (like your car and house), but not for your Wii. It’s a waste of money for one thing, and it makes you appreciate it less for another.
  • Wait before you buy. If you just buy everything you want when you want it, you won’t appreciate it, and you’ll spend a lot of money on stuff you’ll never use like… lets see what’s on my desk: ah yes, an M&M Dispenser. And if you wait for a while, the anticipation makes it even better. Like waiting for a Christmas gift.
  • Beware the downside. Everything comes with good and bad sides. An awesome ski trip comes with a long flight, hauling a snowboard around, and sore muscles. A new puppy comes with all kinds of barking and cleanup and having to come home every 5 hours to feed it. Make sure the downside of the stuff you buy is worth the upside.
  • Beware comparison shopping. You look at two phones, and you want something that has a big screen and feels nice, and has all the apps you want. But they all do that, and before you know it you’re spending 100$ more on one that has integrated face recognition, which two days ago you didn’t even know existed, and two days from now you won’t even care about.
  • Ask the audience. If you want to go to Greece, see if other people loved Greece. If you want to go see Sucker Punch, don’t: it sucked. If you want to buy an iPhone, ask your friends if they love it. How much other people like something is biggest predictor for how much you’re going to like it.

Via Get Rich Slowly