Sloan Management Review poses the question:

What types of people are more likely to be happy?

A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper called “International Happiness,” by economists David G. Blanchflower of Dartmouth College in the U.S. and Andrew J. Oswald  of the University of Warwick in England, offers some insights.

Blanchflower and Oswald give an overview of findings, in a number of nations, about factors that are associated statistically with either increased or decreased levels of reported well-being. Among the characteristics that they say have been shown to be linked, in people in a substantial number of nations, to a greater likelihood of happiness, are being:

  • Young or old (rather than in midlife)
  • Financially well-off
  • Educated
  • Married
  • Employed
  • Physically healthy


Some other interesting findings about the U.S. that Blanchflower and Oswald report:

  • In the U.S., self-employed people are likely to be happier than other people earning about the same amount.
  • Unemployment is linked to a lot of unhappiness — and, even among those employed, there is a strong association between job insecurity and unhappiness.
  • Overall, Americans’ happiness level has not increased since the 1970s, and may be a little lower.

What factors are associated with greater levels of happiness in a country as a whole?  Here’s what the authors of the working paper “International Happiness” report:

“Happy countries are disproportionately rich, educated, democratic, trusting, and low-unemployment.”

David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald.

Do Happy People Are Daydreaming 46% of the Time?  

Harvard psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert carried out a study published in Science magazine, that confirmed that the centuries-old Buddhist practice works.
Using the iPhone app, trackyourhappiness, the researchers asked 2,200 people to respond to text messages at any given moment, mentioning what they were doing and how happy they were.

After analysing more than 25,000 text messages, Killingsworth and Gilbert found that 46% of the time, people were daydreaming, and they weren’t all that happy.

The ones who were fully engaged in a meaningful activity were happiest.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind… The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

Evidently, we’re more likely to think negative thoughts if we let our minds wander.

“We see evidence for mind-wandering causing unhappiness, but no evidence for unhappiness causing mind-wandering,” Killingsworth told the New York Times.