Are the divorced happier? ... and some more questions about happiness, by Sandro Denegri

Warning to the reader: This is not a self-help article, it is an article based on scientific evidence.

If we Google “how to be happy” or “how to be happy” we will find 562 million and 4.7 billion answers respectively, apparently humans are curious about happiness. But before entering the matter, let’s define what happiness is, for the RAE it is a “State of great spiritual and physical satisfaction”, In my opinion, a more accurate definition is that of Eduard Punset: “Happiness is the absence of fear” to which I have allowed myself to add “… with a reasonable level of self-satisfaction.”

Now, here are some science-based questions and answers about happiness.

What is the happiest country?

Unquestionably Finland, which has been in first place for the last four years “World Happiness Report” [1].

The last time Peru appeared was in 2019 and it was ranked 65 out of 156 countries.

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Does the weather affect happiness?

According to a study carried out among university students in the United States, the climate is not decisive for well-being [2]. This correlates with the “World Happiness Report” where the Nordic countries – famous for their cold climate and scarce sunlight – always appear in the Top 10 of the ranking.

At what age are we happiest?

Childhood is definitely the happiest age, then our happiness levels begin a sustained fall until approximately the beginning of old age, which is when they rise again. [3].

Interestingly, if we graph this progression on a plane, the curve that is drawn is that of a smile.

Are we born programmed to be happy?

The geneticist Dean Hammer and his team from the United States National Institute of Health discovered the “happiness gene”, which is the gene for the D4 receptor for dopamine – the neurohormone responsible for pleasurable sensations – this receptor controls the release of It is in the nucleus accumbens -center of pleasure, and laughter, of the brain- [5].

It should be noted that genetics is not deterministic, we can be born with the happiness gene activated; But then environmental factors make us prone to depression.

Can we program ourselves to be happier?

Ways of injecting ourselves with the “quartet of happiness” are already being studied, the neurotransmitters endorphin, serotonin and oxytocin that, added to dopamine, are responsible for the pleasant sensations and well-being in our brain. East shot chemical will make us happy, no doubt [6].

Can we do something to make our children happy?

Children who are more hugged by their parents, who have more physical contact with them, are four times less likely to fall into depression than the average [7].

Are smarter people happier?

People with a high IQ are twice as likely to be depressed as people with a medium IQ [7].

Does money bring happiness?

Yes, up to a point. There is a correlation between the economic level and happiness. The rich are happier, although there is a threshold passed in which more wealth does not mean more happiness. [3].

Solid statistics show that being poor is depressing, poverty amplifies the suffering of other misfortunes such as illness [4].

Does getting divorced make us happier?

In a University of Chicago study conducted with couples in crisis, it was found that only half of those who finally divorced said they felt happier five years later, while two-thirds of those who got over the crisis said they felt happier. Neither depression nor self-esteem symptoms improved in the divorced compared to the rest [5].

Do Social Networks make us happy?

People with large numbers of Facebook friends tend to have lower self-esteem and be less happy [8].

Several studies (for example, Twenge & Campbell, 2018) have found that adolescents and young adults who spend more time in digital media have lower well-being.

Is happiness contagious?

There are mixed ideas. Harvard professor Nicholas Christakis and University of California James Fowler studied 5,209 volunteers and confirmed that social behaviors such as happiness are contagious – as are unhappiness, smoking, and obesity. [9].

But, in the Fifth World Study on Coca-Cola Happiness it was shown that a person upon learning that his coworker earns more than she feels more unhappy than before a tax increase, although his partner’s salary does not reduce his income and tax increase if [5].

In adult life, one of the great obstacles to being happy is the mania of comparing yourself with others, as it generates frustration and insecurity.

Did we always want to be happy?

Apparently not, at least the obsessive pursuit of happiness and the belief that it is a mandate is a recent invention.

Happiness as a product is an invention of North American marketing, it was not for nothing that an advertising executive from the United States invented the smiley face; a sound engineer from that country who created canned laughs for TV; and McDonald’s, who created the Happy Meal [8].

And … What makes us happy?

In 1938, Harvard University began the “Study on Adult Development” with 268 individuals, who have been followed for more than 80 years to measure the variables that can explain their happiness – or unhappiness – among other things. It is one of the longest-running investigations in history, it continues to this day.

Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger – current study leader – says that the participants who reported having happier lives were those with 1) strong family ties, 2) close friends Y 3) rich romantic lives [10].

The study’s first director and principal investigator, George Vaillant, in his book “Triumphs of Experience” further summarized: Happiness is love. Final point” [10].

I end with the central phrase of “The trip to hapyness” by Eduard Punset: «In the search, in the expectation, lies most of the happiness. Happiness is hidden in the waiting room of happiness».

[1] World Happiness Report

[2] “Think fast, think slowly.” Daniel Kahneman.

[3] “Neuromarketing”. Roberto Álvarez Blanco.

[4] “Why we are as we are.” Eduard Punset.

[5] “The trip to hapyness”. Eduard Punset.

[6] “Homo Deus”. Noah Yuval Harari.

[7] “Outliers”. Michael Gladwell.

[8] “Small Data”. Martin Lindstrom.

[9] “Journey to optimism.” Eduard Punset.

[10] Harvard Adult Development Study



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