Happiness is a topic that has been getting a lot of attention lately in design and research circles. One of the difficulties with any discussion around “happiness” is that everyone’s definition of the term differs. This ambiguity leads me to question exactly what it is that designers and researchers are measuring against when they find more or less “happiness”.
Social scientists measure happiness through self-report scales. But one has to wonder whether people’s self-report of their own happiness is accurate or meaningful. Examining a number of recent studies on “happiness” shows that there are a number of factors involved in reaching this sometimes elusive state.
Apparently, being exposed to good bacteria can make us happier. Studies showing moderately happy people to be healthier and wealthier than extremely happy people raise the question of just how happy should we really want to be?
You’ll be happier if you measure up well against your peers, which according to one study on young girls, meant that being slimmer equaled being happier and more popular. But if you’ don’t feel like you measure up, don’t worry. It’s possible that depression offers evolutionary and intellectual benefits. That’s good news for those of you nearing your middle years, because middle age is a depressing time in the lives of adults these days.
If you find yourself feeling really down and just have to go out for some retail therapy, you might want to go shop for a new car. Car manufacturers are recognizing that happy drivers are safer drivers and providing new technologies to make people happier.