This series is discussing the idea that not only does success bring happiness, but happiness also brings success. Last time we found that happiness helps people to have better jobs and earn more money; today we’re going to see whether they enjoy better relationships too. I’ve already written articles on happiness as it relates to marriage, and social relationships, so I’ll just add a few extra findings today.
Romance, Marriage and Happiness
- One of the strongest findings in happiness research is the positive correlation between social relationships and happiness
- Happy people tend to have more friends and more social support
- Happy people are more satisfied with the friends they have and less prone to jealousy of other people
- On the other hand, loneliness has a negative correlation with happiness, and a positive correlation with depression
- Happy people are good for society – they spend more time volunteering
Just like last time, the above evidence in cross-sectional, which means you can’t determine from it what is the cause and what is the effect. You need longitudinal evidence for that – studies that track a variable over time.
Although studies tracking happiness and relationships over time are sparse, there are a few. One paper reported that happier people received more emotional and tangible assistance from others, over a year after the happiness measures were taken.
In terms of romance, it’s a two-way street – if you’re happier, you’re more likely to find a partner and get married, and when you get married, you receive a boost in happiness that lasts over the long term. For example, college yearbook entries for a sample of women were analysed for how much positive emotion they conveyed. Amazingly, this could be used to predict how satisfied they were with their marriages, 31 years later!
These findings fit into the authors’ theory that happiness is a signal to expand as well as a result of successful expansion – it’s a kind of dry way of putting it, but when you get married you effectively double your resources. You pool tangible possessions, money, you both have access to more emotional support, meet new people from the other family and so on. So it makes sense that marriage would bring happiness. Oh yeah, plus there’s all the love, sex and mushy stuff too. Let’s not forget that.
So far so good for the theory – happiness can be a cause of social and romantic success, not just a result of it. Next time we’ll ask whether happiness improves our health.
This series was based on the below paper published in Psychological Bulletin by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King and Ed Deiner – three big names in positive psychology. It was a huge effort, they analysed 225 studies with over 275,000 participants in total! All three researchers have books out so if you like the stuff in these articles, stick their names into Amazon and see if there’s something you like!
Apart from the side-splitting humour, all the points in this article came from this reference. If you’re looking for the original studies, get the pdf of the above reference and do a Ctrl+F (or Apple+F) to search for the finding you’re looking for. Then find the study in their reference list.
(1) Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Deiner, E. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? Psychological Bulletin, 131/6, 803–855