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Archive for January 17th, 2008

Happiness helps you live longer.

Most people ascribe to that maxim, even if they’ve never seen the research backing it up. It just makes sense.

But for several years now, the research has demonstrated a clear correlation between happiness and a longer life. It first started with a follow-up study of the now famous Minnesota nuns. Comparing their essays when they first entered the order and their ages, researchers found that of those rated as writing “happier” essays — 90 percent of them lived past the age of 85 compared with only 34 percent who were rated in the least happy percentile.

Another study of Mayo Clinic patients demonstrated the same thing. As part of their admittance, 800 patients answered questions about whether their outlook was optimistic or pessimistic. Forty years later, of the 200 patients who had died, the optimists showed 19 percent greater longevity than the pessimists.

Longevity clearly results from genetics, lifestyle, and other factors (perhaps even luck). But one thing is clear — a positive attitude and happier mindset can extend one’s life and make it richer in the process.

Source: Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Human Strengths. Alan Carr. Brunner-Routledge. New York. 2004

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With European populations aging, researchers have been turning their attention to mature adults and their various levels of happiness and unhappiness.

Here are some of their findings:

  • Older people living alone were more likely to be depressed, lonely and unhappy and to be less satisfied with life than those living with a spouse.
  • Those living with a relative or friend were more likely to be lonely than those living with a spouse.
  • Men living with a relative or friend were less likely to be happy or satisfied with life than those living with a wife.
  • In most regions of Europe, older women who were unmarried were in general happier living with friends and family than alone. But this did not apply to women in Nordic countries where there was no significant difference in happiness levels between living alone or with other people.
  • In England, older women rated their health better if they lived alone rather than with a husband. However, men and women living alone had a higher mortality risk than those who lived with a spouse.

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Keep a person satisfied in his or her job and it will result in superior job performance.

At least that’s been the prevailing wisdom.

But now a researcher says it doesn’t quite work that way. Nathan Bowling, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Wright State, says that his research shows that satisfaction does not cause performance. Instead, he says that employee personality characteristics, such as self-esteem, emotional stability, extroversion and conscientiousness determine it.

According to Bowling, the studies show that employees who have an overall negative attitude to all things in life likely won’t find job satisfaction, regardless of performance, because of their personality characteristics.

“Emotional stability matters a lot,” Bowling said. “People who are neurotic, those who tend to be anxious, depressed, regardless of the situation, typically won’t find satisfaction no matter how many jobs they try.”

What are the implications of his work?

Bowling says that workplace interventions designed to improve performance by exclusively targeting employee satisfaction are unlikely to be effective. He also suggests that the studies show that intelligence is one of the things that drives the performance. Another common denominator of solid performing employees, according to Bowling, are those who exhibit a high level of conscientiousness — those who are detail-oriented, hard workers and who set goals.

Source: Is the Job Satisfaction-Job Performance Relationship Spurious: A Meta-Analytic Examination. Source: Bowling, N.A. (2007). Journal of Vocational Behavior, 71, 167-185.

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