Happiness provides evidence for Humans as a Social Species

The new year has just started, and we all know what that means: many annual resolutions. Increasing one’s well-being and health is at the very top of most people’s list and society places a great emphasis on stress reduction, healthy diets and increasing life satisfaction. But can people just steer their life towards greater well-being?

Happiness is a highly desirable attitude, but its active pursuit is neither easy nor always beneficial. Oftentimes, people over-emphasise material goods and focus on personal gains only, thereby neglecting social relationships.

A longitudinal study conducted by Rohrer and colleagues in 2018 investigated if happiness can be increased and which types of pursuits prove especially useful. A total of 5.518 German participants were surveyed in computer-assisted personal interviews. They had to indicate their current level of life satisfaction and write down ideas for improvement in paper format. It was then investigated which of these ideas predicted changes in life circumstances one year later.

Findings indicate that not all ideas are equally advantageous, because most participants described actions that they could not perform themselves but instead referred to external circumstances or fortune. However, those individuals who described active social pursuits ended up being more satisfied one year later. This provides evidence for the powerful effect of social relationships for human well-being and health. Humans simply need other humans in order to be happy, so spending time with loved ones is a worthy investment for the upcoming year.

Graph displays individuals with at least one socially engaged strategy (orange) and individuals with only non-social strategies (blue). The horizontal grey lines mark the grand mean of life satisfaction in 2014 and 2015.

To read the full article: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/pss

Rohrer, J.M., Richter, D., Brümmer, M., Wagner, G.G. & Schmuckle, S.C. (2018). Successfully Striving for Happiness: Socially Engaged Pursuits Predict Increases in Life Satisfaction. Psychological Science, Vol. 29(8) 1291-1298. DOI: 10.1177/0956797618761660

Blog writer: Ella Victoria Ferrand

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