The Science of Happiness

The Futurist, September-October 1992 | Go to article overview

The Science of Happiness


A new science of well-being has emerged to find out why some people achieve a higher sense of satisfaction with life than others do. This science purports to dig beyond objective measures of physical and material well-being, which monitor health and nutrition, morbidity and mortality, marital status, wealth, and living arrangements--or "diet, death rates, dollars, and dwellings," as social psychologist David G. Myers describes them in a new book, The Pursuit of Happiness.

The happiness of individuals is good for society as a whole, Myers believes. "Happy people . . . are strikingly energetic, decisive, flexible, creative, and sociable," he says. "Compared to unhappy people, they are more trusting, more loving, more responsive.... Happy people tolerate more frustration. They are less likely to be abusive and are more lenient.... They choose long-term rewards over immediate small pleasures.... In experiment after experiment, happy people are more willing to help those in need."

While many theorists believe that physical well-being (good health) is an indicator of mental well-being (happiness), Myers cites evidence that happiness actually contributes to good health: "Emotions are biological events. Our body's immune system fights disease more effectively when we are happy rather than depressed. When we are depressed, the number of certain disease-fighting cells declines. …

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