“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be," Abraham Lincoln said. Is it really true? We're always told that we have to pursue happiness, but is that really under our control?
A new report says that finding happiness is a bit more complicated than making the decision to smile all the time, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The study shows a close link between happiness and quality of life; things like air quality and good schools apparently have a large influence on a person's mood.
As Tonic wrote recently, the report, which appeared in the journal Science, assesses how happy people are in states across the nation. This research, which surveyed more than 1 million people, was used to list the relative happiness of all the states (from Louisiana, the happiest, to New York, the least happy). Another important conclusion one can draw, however, is that there is "a close match between people’s subjective life-satisfaction scores and objectively-estimated quality of life,” as the report says. The states that ranked most highly in quality-of-life measures also reported the highest average self-reported happiness levels.
The research has its share of detractors. Author B.J. Gallagher points out that correlation doesn't mean causation, and it is impossible to tell what exactly is causing people to be happy in various places. Some important factors might not have been measured in the study.
"Louisiana is a case in point,” Gallagher told the Monitor. “This new study reports that the happiest people are those in Hawaii and in Louisiana. So is it the climate or the tight family structures and strong community ties? I would argue that it’s the latter, not the former."