Friendship Not Money


It seems that people nowadays, in their quest for happiness, are putting all their efforts into material possessions, rather than what really matters most. Money can buy a lot of “things” but what about love, good health and good relationships? Aren’t those more important for our mental health?

A study was conducted entitled the new Origins of Happiness, and the findings were presented at the London School of Economics (LSE) well-being conference in December of 2016. Data was collected to use in the survey from four countries that revealed the key determinant of people’s life satisfaction.

Lord Richard Layard, LSE economist, led the study and said that the findings suggest that governments should be focused on well-being creation and not on wealth creation. According to Layard, by focusing on people’s physical and mental health, along with relationships, the corresponding reduction in depression and anxiety could reduce misery by 20% and at the same time, reduce health care costs.

Dealing with depression and anxiety would be self-financing because the costs would be recovered by increased employment rates and a reduction in health care costs. For a happy adult life, it is important that a child is judged on their emotional health and they should not be judged solely on their academic achievements. There is also evidence that schools have a big impact on a child’s emotional health. Some notable findings are: income inequality explains only 1% of the variation in happiness levels within a community while mental health differences explain over 4%; having a partner in life plays a greater role in life satisfaction than education level and being married is worth more than $100,000 of income; in the U.S., Germany, Britain and Australia the average happiness levels have failed to rise despite massive increases in living standards. Overall, the evidence shows that the things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our mental and physical health.

High income cannot buy happiness, but low income may become a hindrance to both happiness and well-being. Those living in poverty, which is $11,770 for a single person and 24,250 for a family of four, bear the brunt of the burden and usually struggle with both psychological and physical health. Nearly 9% of those living below the federal poverty line experience serious psychological distress compared to only 1.2% of those living at or above 400% of the poverty line.

The mid-life crisis period of unhappiness hits many people in their 40’s and may, in fact, be real. This is described as the U-shaped curve that was revealed from the research of half a million people. It is said that happiness levels tend to be high in childhood then move downward after the age of 18. Then it tends to bottom out during the 40’s. By age 50 and over, happiness begins to creep back up again for most, until they are in the last few years of life or a serious health problem occurs.

Ten keys to living happier, and spell out “Great Dream” are:
1. Giving: Do things for others
2. Relating: Connect with people
3. Exercising: Take care of your body
4. Awareness: Live life mindfully
5. Trying Out: Keep learning new things
6. Direction: Have goals to look forward to
7. Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
8. Emotions: Look for what’s good
9. Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
10. Meaning: Be part of something bigger

A big bonus of happiness is that it creates a positive feedback, leading to physical and mental benefits. Keep positive and hold those friends and family close. That is what should be important in life, not all the material things. Can’t we all do with more “family” time with our children and a little less material things? Love, laugh and enjoy the life you have been given. Stay a little healthier in mind and body at the same time!

Dr Fredda Branyon