Happiness: Does Wealth Make Health?

“Happiness economics” researchers have turned on the light bulb in the dim and dusty basement and come up with a brilliant insight.

Analyzing the data from a study involving 16,000 people, Dartmouth College economist David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England have concluded that sex “enters so strongly (and) positively in happiness equations” that increasing one’s frequency of sexual intercourse from once per month to once per week roughly equals the happiness that would be brought on by a $50,000 (U.S.) annual pay increase. In addition, studies have demonstrated that having more money does not in and of itself equate to getting more or better sex.

“The evidence we see is that money brings

Shocked and awed, aren’t you, that someone who is only getting sex once per month would theoretically be willing to spend $50, 000 per year to get sex four times as often (which is essentially what this study says)?

Other reports suggest that not only is it money that can’t buy you happiness, but intelligence doesn’t attract it, either. Researchers studying old(er) but healthy men and women living in Scotland very recently published in the British Medical Journal that happiness in old age is not associated with lifelong intelligence.

“If you are 80 and healthy, then your satisfaction with how your life has turned out bears no relation to how you scored on an IQ test recently or 70 years ago,” says researcher Ian Deary, professor of differential psychology at the University of Edinburgh.

“Our findings indicate that positive affective states are related to favorable profiles of functioning in several biological systems and may thereby be relevant to risk of development of physical illness,” conclude the researchers. Those people with happy attitudes had levels of the stress hormone cortisol that averaged 32% lower than in the least happy people. Happiness was also associated with lower ambulatory heart rate, even after considering other factors (age, smoking, employment level, BMI, and physical activity).

During the mental stress tests, 68% of the participants had an increase in plasma fibrinogen. However, the least happy people were 3.72 times quicker to have their plasma fibrinogen level increase under stress than were the happiest people. Age, gender, marital status, and socioeconomic position were not associated with happiness level. Males are not inherently happier than females, nor vice versa. Happiness isn’t just for those with the largest bank accounts or highest social standing. Happiness does not come easier to either the young or the old.

So. Do these studies show that high intelligence is, in essence, worthless beyond the merest utilitarianism? It seems that there is an assumption behind these studies that intelligence all by itself, without wise or productive application, can magically bring happiness. But aren’t the cultivation of wisdom and the capacity for production (creativity) also a part of high intelligence? Is being an adept at trivial pursuits a sign of intelligence? Does a degree from Harvard University in and of itself make one intelligent and therefore happy? Does having high social standing necessitate having intelligence? True intelligence does, in my experience, bring great happiness and at once greater potential for attaining ever more of it, but true intelligence is more multidimensional than these two-dimensional studies of money, sex, and IQ would make it seem.

It is sad to see IQ treated like a bank account, and sadder still to see the assumption that money buys fulfillment. (Enduring happiness only comes from fulfillment.)

So. How might those with inquiring minds attain the heights of bliss?

Realize that enduring happiness does not come from success as it’s usually defined by the mundane world of getting and spending and mass production.
Realize that happiness is not about the amount of years in your life, but the amount of life in your years.
Find it a joyful thrill to just be alive in the first place.
Focus on your strengths. Never let yourself be defined by your weaknesses.
Understand that there always are, or shall be, choices for you in every situation.
Realize that the only constant in life is change.
If it is not so already, make your professional career out of work that you love to do; never settle for just making a living.
Take part in engaging, not merely passive, leisure activities.
Consistently get aerobic exercise. Get your heart rate up and break a sweat.
Eat foods that facilitate a healthy excercise program.
Get enough sleep. The desire to stay up all through the night is a sign of anxiety, not a sign of energy.
Give the utmost priority to close relationships. If you are involved in a romantic relationship, then you should be experiencing it with fiery passion and your lover should be your best friend; this relationship should be of the highest priority and importance.
Do not be self-centered. Take pride in creating and giving something of lasting value to the world around you.
Appreciate whatever good things you already possess or have accomplished
Have a spiritual focus for your life. This does not necessitate a religion or self-denial.
Tell yourself the truth about your life, but always do so with a positive attitude of self-confidence and hope.
Do not live life in two dimensions. Seek to thrive, not just to survive.
Take calculated risks.

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