Relationships and Happiness


Hannah Carrothers, Taryn Eliel, and Olivia Ovenell MKTG 4910-01 December 3rd, 2018 Happiness Index Analysis

When looking at the Happiness Index data, we focused on two questions that dealt with relationships because we have learned about how relationships are some of the biggest contributors to happiness. In particular, we looked at the differences in happiness scores of our class, other Seattle University students, University of Washington data science students, and middle age respondents (ages 40-54). We found that our class average response was 4 out of 5 (5 being the highest) to the question, “How satisfied are you with your personal relationships?” A 1 indicates, “Very Dissatisfied” on a scale ranging to a 5, indicating, “Very Satisfied.” A notable finding from the data was that on this same question, the age group of people 40-54 years old had an average happiness score of 3.12. To see if this pattern was consistent, we looked at a second domain which asks respondents to rate how much they agree or disagree with the statement, “People in my life care about me.” The data showed that our class responded with an average of 4.56 on a scale from 1 to 5, which correlated with a range from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.” Yet again, the middle age group scored lower, with an average score of 3.93. This leads us to question why this difference in happiness score may be occuring.

Explanation #1: Since we found that people ages 40-54 scored the lowest in both questions, we turned to the U-Bend of Life article to help us understand why. This article written by The Economist, explains that people who are middle age tend to be less happy than those who are younger and those who are older, creating a U-shape in happiness levels. People who are middle age experience what many call a mid-life crisis, (The Economist). With a dip in happiness and a feeling of crises arising in this period of time, one may view the quality of their relationships with friends and family differently. It is possible that in middle age, as the U-Bend of Life implies, psychological well-being decreases, “Enjoyment and happiness dip in middle age, then pick up...worry peaks in middle age, and falls sharply thereafter...sadness rises slightly in middle age, and falls thereafter” (The Economist). This can be a consequence of many different factors, but a common theme is that people simply tend to be unhappy, and depression is also most prominent in people of the middle age demographic. The U-Bend of Life may explain the results of the two questions we looked at; it shows that our overall well-being and happiness levels may affect our relationships.
According to an article from Psychology Today by Robert T. Muller, people who are depressed are more detached from others and may often not have enough energy to spend quality time with friends and family. This can be very detrimental to relationships, which is why if middle-age people are feeling less happy and more depressed, their relationships are likely to suffer. This explains how the data from the Happiness Index show a lower happiness score on both questions.

Explanation #2:

Our alternative explanation as to why happiness scores were lower for middle age respondents than they were for Seattle University and University of Washington students, is related to the resources people gain by being part of an elite institution such as a university. At university, you are surrounded by teachers and mentors that care about your well-being, and it is their job to provide you with the resources you need to succeed and to feel supported throughout university and into adulthood. This type of social connection is a differentiating factor between the outside world and universities; university campuses are full of like-minded people that are similar in age, and many whom are looking to build relationships and social connections over the course of their degree. In considering this idea of elite institutions, a point of difference we see between the student segment and the middle age segment, is that perhaps the students are happier because they are connected in a way that middle age people are not. At university resources are so easily accessible. There is food available when you need it, friends are everywhere on campus to connect with socially and to offer moral support, there is career advice, counseling, health services, tutors, clubs to join. You essentially don’t have to leave campus to get what you need. Also, if you are struggling with your health, or with finding support, the resources are there for you and are designed to be student-friendly and easy to access. However, later in life, after you leave the bubble of university, you don’t necessarily have that built in network anymore. You have to work harder to seek out and find people that will help you with any psychological ailments, health problems, or career advice you may have. This lack of easily accessible resources may contribute to why middle age people feel that their relationships are lacking, and that they are lonely and not cared for as much. Also, if you are struggling with depression or another health condition, it may be harder to know where to look for help, or you may not have the adequate health insurance to cover things. When life gets more complicated and may feel overwhelming, if you don’t have a built-in network of people around you it can make things even harder. We see companies like Google that are starting to recognise and stress the importance of this type of ‘elite’ daily environment for people’s well-being. Google’s vast work campuses provide employees with free food, free classes, game rooms, and many other amenities that help make the lives of employees easier and more enjoyable while working. According to Forbes, from Google’s efforts in this area, “[it] has seen a 37% rise in employee satisfaction, and [consequently] higher happiness levels” (Forbes, 2018). This takes a lot of resources, so many companies are understandably not there yet. Not everyone works for a company like Google, so not everyone is lucky enough to be receiving such great benefits that mirror what many university campuses offer students. The lack of this kind of engagement and emphasis on self care may be why many middle age people are not gaining the equivalent happiness levels. Also these types of communities foster a sense of social interaction and cohesion which we have learned is vital to our health. Specifically among the college students, our class had the highest happiness levels. This could be due to the fact that our class has learned about what influences happiness and the importance of relationships in our lives. Being in this class has made us more aware and appreciative of our relationships, making us score a higher happiness level. Our eyes are more open and we look for the little acts of kindness and interactions in our relationships because we know investing in our relationships will boost happiness. However, because our class knows the relationship between happiness levels and feeling cared by and connected to others, our response could also be slightly skewed and bias. Since we know the importance of relationships and having learned about happiness, we may give ourselves a higher score than we actually feel because we do not want to admit that we do not feel cared about or are satisfied with our relationships more so than those not in the class who do not know as much about the effect of relationships on happiness.

Proposed Test:

In order to determine which explanation is the largest contributor to the difference in happiness levels between SU & UW students, and middle age participants, we could create a 2-part survey. The respondents of the survey would ideally be people who are 40 years old and above because we would want to know the conditions that affected their happiness during middle age. This survey would them ask a series of questions related to U-Bend attributes such as how age affects personal relationships, and overall well-being, as well as, their perception of how others care about them. The second series of questions would focus on participants’ relationship to elite institutions, and how they may feel about the resources available in these places that enable them to live a happy, healthy life. Potential survey questions include:

U-bend topic: How much do your personal relationships matter to you? (Not at all) 1 2 3 4 5 (Very much) How would you rate the quality of your personal relationships? (Very poor) 1 2 3 4 5 (Very good)

How much does the quality of your health matter to you? (Not at all) 1 2 3 4 5 (very much)

How would you rate the quality of your health? (Very poor) 1 2 3 4 5 (Very good)

How often do you see your friends and family? (Almost never) 1 2 3 4 5 (Very often)

How friendly are your coworkers? (Not friendly at all) 1 2 3 4 5 (Extremely friendly)

Elite Institution topic: How much does a close/central location of your home/work/play affect you? (Not at all 1 2 3 4 5 (Very much)

How involved are you with your community? (Not at all) 1 2 3 4 5 (Very much)

How would you rate the quality of your community? (Not at all) 1 2 3 4 5 (Very much)

How accessible are resources to you such as physical/psychological services? (Not at all) 1 2 3 4 5 (Very much)

How often do you rely on resources such as physical/psychological services? (Not at all) 1 2 3 4 5 (Very much)

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Last updated December 24, 2018
Created December 24, 2018
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