Musings on Mormonism

Where the happiness is

Just as I thought – things are happier out in the West! According to an extensive survey on well-being conducted by Gallup in connection with Healthways and America’s Health Insurance Plans, Utah, Hawaii, Wyoming, Colorado and Minnesota (go Kyle, you happy man!) top the list of happiest states, with West Virginia sulking at the very bottom (poor WV!). I wonder where Oregon, known for its gloomy weather, ranks? Also, I wonder about the findings for northern Virginia – I, for one, am not too happy about the living costs nor the culture of intensity and ambition (ok, this does appeal to me, but probably to a lesser extent than many others), but it’s quite possible that things really aren’t as bad as I sometimes think they are; behind all those stoic and somber faces I see every day may lie some truly exuberant spirits! (and I’ll admit, my conception of outward expressions of happiness may need to be expanded. One can be satisfied with life overall without necessarily wanting to shout it from the rooftops, as is my inclination)

Another interesting finding – but not really, because it almost goes without saying – was that wealth and happiness were highly correlated. This is yet another reason why I don’t want to be poor the rest of my life šŸ™‚


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  1. * Elliott says:

    But before you start looking at the greener grass on the western pasture…

    While for most things it is “location location location,” I think you need to take this sort of study with a grain of salt. What about confounding variables? Is the west a happier place to live, or do happier people, influenced by an unseen variable, just happening to moving and living there? And what about reporter bias? I know in “happy valley,” it often seemed culturally ingrained that righteousness=happiness, so even if you were miserable, you wouldn’t let yourself admit it, even to yourself (disclaimer: I enjoyed my time in Utah, this is just a suspicion).

    I’d like to see this study (not that I’ve looked into it, they probably did to this) stratified into several groups and then compared. How do people within the same socioeconomic bracket compare to their counterparts in another state? There are more poor in the bigger cities, so comparing SLC to NYC seems kind of silly. How about same religious affiliation? An all-across the board comparison seems pretty meaningless to me…people and cultures are anything but homogeneously distributed.

    The biggest danger I think is that people can read this study and blame their location for their state of happiness.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  2. * Bryce says:

    Whoa, I stand corrected, my friend! I do agree with you that we should not permanently infuse such studies into our worldviews without first making a critical assessment (which, I’ll admit, I haven’t done. This was more of a casual post). I haven’t looked at the methodology yet, so I don’t know how/if the study addressed confounding variables and reporter and other biases.

    Thanks for keeping me honest, Elliott! I couldn’t sneak this one past you, could I? When I find some time, I may look into the methods more to examine the soundness of the study.

    And I agree, there is a danger in believing that our environment exerts more influence over our well-being than it actually does, hence your well-founded skepticism. You’re clearly nobody’s foo’!

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  3. * Elliott says:

    Ha, not a question of keeping you honest. I think the study has some interesting implications, I just think it needs a very large asterisk next to it =) Keep it up, Bryce, continue to enjoy your blog. (P.S. thanks for the comment love on ours!)

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  4. * Emily Ellsworth says:

    The first lesson of statistics is that correlation is not necessarily causation. Could it be that those people who are happier then in turn become rich? Maybe because they spend less time feeling sorry for themselves and go get some work done! Also, I was glad to see Utah on the list. I do think we have very happy people here. (For the most part).

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  5. * Bryce says:

    Thanks, Elliott! You’re right, I think an asterisk would have sufficed. I also enjoy your blog – you and Lara have lots of interesting and well-written things to say, which I appreciate šŸ™‚

    Emily, good point about correlation and causation. As one who is emotionally sensitive and has spent plenty of time feeling sorry for himself, but also has developed the confidence and faith to seek solutions and work for happiness, I can appreciate your suggestion that happiness may be at least a significant factor in leading to material success. I think such may very well be the case. However, there are surely many exceptions (i.e. happy people who are not particularly “successful”, unhappy people who are), perhaps enough to justify withholding complete acceptance of the general principle that happiness, and its attendant traits, leads people to become rich.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  6. * Emily Ellsworth says:

    You are right Bryce. I was mostly playing Devil’s advocate. I am quite poor, but very happy. I think, however, if I was in debt or having severe financial trouble, it would definitely affect my happiness. And, another thought. Perhaps intense sadness and despair can lead one to make poor financial choices in order to turn one’s luck. i.e. gambling or investment schemes.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  7. * Bryce says:

    True that! I think we are in agreement here, Emily. Poverty can contribute to unhappiness, and unhappiness can contribute to poverty. Not a happy cycle, but I do believe it is possible to break out of. And thank goodness for that šŸ™‚

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago

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