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Robert A. Cummins Australian Centre on Quality of Life Deakin University Is happiness good for you?

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Presentation on theme: "Robert A. Cummins Australian Centre on Quality of Life Deakin University Is happiness good for you?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Robert A. Cummins Australian Centre on Quality of Life Deakin University Is happiness good for you?

2 The science of happiness Science has captured the study of happiness from philosophy There is now 30 years of systematic research into the theoretical basis and empirical performance of the human sense of wellbeing

3 Quality of Life [wellbeing] Objective Wellbeing Subjective Wellbeing [happiness] Objective Conditions e.g. Physical health Subjective Perceptions e.g. Satisfaction with health ?

4 Feelings of ‘happiness’ come in two varieties Short-term ‘emotional’ happiness An emotional response to something nice Long-term ‘mood’ happiness A mood with a genetic basis Subjective wellbeing [Contentment]

5 How can we describe the sense of subjective wellbeing? A normally positive state of mind that involves the whole life experience

6 Personal Wellbeing Index Standard of living Health Achieving in life Relationships Safety Community connectedness Future security Spirituality/Religion How satisfied are you with your-----? ∑ = Subjective Wellbeing

7 We code all data to lie on a range from 0100 Complete dissatisfaction Complete satisfaction

8 Why all the fuss about mood happiness? Positive emotions build a range of personal resources as: Physical resources (health, longevity) Social resources (friendliness, social capital) Intellectual resources (intellectual curiosity, expert knowledge,) Psychological resources (resilience, optimism, creativity)

9 In 2000 Deakin University and Australian Unity formed a partnership Purpose: to create a quarterly index of subjective wellbeing for the Australian population. As an alternative to the traditional economic indicators such as GDP

10 The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index Surveys Geographically representative sample N = 2,000 Telephone interview #1:April 2001 ------------ #26:Sept 2011

11 Personal Wellbeing Index 2001 - 2011

12 This represents a 3.0 percentage point variation

13 Normative range using survey mean scores as data (N=26) 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 SD = 0.8 Mean = 74.9 76.4 73.4 Subjective Wellbeing Very satisfied Very dissatisfied

14 Why is subjective wellbeing held so steady? Homeostasis Just like we hold body temperature steady Subjective wellbeing homeostasis

15 Each person has a set-point for their subjective wellbeing. 60 90 Range for individual set-points These set-points lie between 60 and 90 Set-points are always POSITIVE ie above 50

16 The average set-point is 75. 75 60 90 Range For individual set-points [The set-point for the average person ]

17 75 Time 60 90 When nothing much is happening to them, people rate how they feel about their life in terms of their set-point for SWB The average set-point

18 Homeostasis can fail Overwhelming negative challenges Subjective wellbeing The result of subjective wellbeing loss is depression

19 Subjective wellbeing constantly under challenge, but is well protected Challenges Subjective Wellbeing [normal] X External resources (eg. relationships, money)

20 The most protective External Resources A close relationship &h=267&w=400&sz=97&hl=en&start=13&sig2=g6PUgVjsMT8vqd1hp3DFsQ&um=1&tbnid=2jGBr7dyST6m0M:&tbnh=95&tbnw=143&ei=3rOhRt6XEJ2mggOIhqXlDQ&prev=/images%3 Fq%3Dold%2Bcouple%26svnum%3D10%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26sa%3DG

21 Money How does money link to happiness? Money is a flexible resource that allows people to defend themselves against life’s challenges

22 Income is an external resource that enhances resilience Median Total N ≈ 30,000 76.3 Normal Range 73.0 * 78.0 * 76.5 * 73.9 71.7 74.9 78.3 79.2 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 <$15$15-30$31-60$61-90$91-120$121-150$150+ Household Income ($'000) Subjective wellbeing *

23 Income and Mood Happiness

24 Australian Unity Wellbeing Index [cumulative data] 763 Normative Range 73.0 79.1 77.4 77.3 76.5 75.4 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 <$15$15-$30$31-$60$61-$90$91-$120$121-$150$150+ Household Income ($'000) Partner only Subjective Wellbeing median

25 Australian Unity Wellbeing Index [cumulative data]


27 Internal resources Challenges Subjective wellbeing X External resources (eg. relationships, money) Internal resources (eg. Finding meaning)

28 BALLARD STREET “I can’t be good at everything,” reasons Todd When we fail to control the world around us we use Cognitive Restructuring to protect SWB The use of internal resources

29 Using internal resources to protect wellbeing 75 Time Drops coffee I can’t be good at everything Subjective wellbeing

30 Using external resources to protect wellbeing 75 Time Hire a butler Subjective wellbeing

31 In summary Homeostasis can fail MOOD Happiness <50/100 Challenges to homeostasis The loss of positive wellbeing is depression

32 Maintaining homeostasis MOOD Happiness 75/100 Challenges to homeostasis Buffering resources

33 Is more better? Are high levels of happiness good for you? The answer lies in homeostasis therefore Sometimes Yes and sometimes No Happiness can be associated with pathology

34 Name a boss you can think of who--- 1 Takes advantage of others to achieve for them self 2 Lacks empathy 3 Requires excessive admiration 4 Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love 5 Believes they can only be understood by other high-status people 6 Exaggerates own achievements and talents to the point of lying 7 Is envious of others or believes that others are envious of them. 8 Is arrogant and haughty

35 At least five criteria = Narcissistic Personality Disorder They tend to have high levels of happiness (at the expense of everyone else!)

36 School of Psychology What about non-pathological happiness? People have different set-points for happiness So, do people with high set-points do better in life than people with low set-points?

37 ‘The Nun Study’ (Danner et al., 2001, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology) 180 Catholic nuns in USA Age: 75 – 95y (42% had died) At age 22y produced a brief autobiography Analysis: rated for positive & negative content Strength of emotional content NegativePositive Correlation with longevityNoYes LOWEST positive 25% – HIGHEST positive 25% = 10 Years

38 SWB is a positive emotional state that Buffers the adverse effects of negative emotion.

39 High set-points buffer daily experience Genetic high Mood Happiness (High set-point) STRONG BUFFERS (High Resilience) SUBJECTIVE WELLBEING (above average) POSITIVE NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENT

40 Is a chronic high level of happiness good for you? 1. It is good for nuns longevity morbidity 2.It is generally beneficial to pro-social behaviours

41 Principle of homeostasis It is defending each person’s set-point for happiness, which is an adaptive level for that person Movement of happiness either below or above the set-point range should be less adaptive

42 High levels of happiness can sometimes be BAD for you risk-taking over-confidence Happiness in not risk-free However, no one commits suicide while feeling happy By far the largest risk-factor in low happiness [depression]

43 Broaden and Build Model Barbara Fredrickson (2001) Happiness -Look outward -Seek new information / experiment and play -High motivation to engage the world Happiness -Look inwards -Ruminate and try to find the reason for the unhappiness -Low motivation to engage the world Fredrickson, B.L., & Branigan, C. (2001) Positive emotions. In T.J. Mayne., & G.A. Bonanno (Eds.).Emotions: Current issues and future directions, 123-152, Guilford Press, New York.

44 Summary We have a gold standard for happiness and a theoretical model for understanding how it is maintained by a homeostatic system. Happiness does not necessarily = mental health [eg. Narcissistic Personality Disorder] Happiness is generally good for us [but we cannot increase it beyond the set-point ceiling] Acute periods of low happiness are adaptive and normal [Broaden and Build] Chronically low happiness is caused by homeostatic defeat [Depression]

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