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ScottoGato's Blog
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entry Jun 19 2007, 12:02 PM
Taken from Reuters here... http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMo...550309820070615

Americans less happy today than 30 years ago: study

By Deepa Babington

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Americans are less happy today than they were 30 years ago thanks to longer working hours and a deterioration in the quality of their relationships with friends and neighbors, according to an Italian study.

Researchers presenting their work at a conference on "policies for happiness" at Italy's Siena University honed in on two major forces that boost happiness-- higher income and better social relationships -- and put a dollar value on them.

Based on that, they concluded a person with no friends or social relations with neighbors would have to earn $320,000 more each year than someone who did to enjoy the same level of happiness.

And while the average American paycheck had risen over the past 30 years, its happiness-boosting benefits were more than offset by a drop in the quality of relationships over the period.

"The main cause is a decline in the so-called social capital -- increased loneliness, increased perception of others as untrustworthy and unfair," said Stefano Bartolini, one of the authors of the study.

"Social contacts have worsened, people have less and less relationships among neighbors, relatives and friends."

He and two other Italian researchers looked at data from 1975 to 2004 collected by the annual General Social Surveys that monitors change in U.S. society through interviews with thousands of Americans.

By contrast, it appeared that based on the limited data available the happiness trend had remained largely stable in Europe, which had apparently avoided some of the changes in the American workplace like longer hours and more pressure.

"The increase in hours worked by Americans over the last 30 years has heavily affected their happiness because people who are more absorbed by work have less time and energy for relationships," said Bartolini.

"Another important cause is that American society in the last 30 years has experienced a huge increase in competitive pressure compared to Europe. It's easier in the United States, if you belong to the middle class, to become poor than you would in Europe. This creates a state of insecurity."

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post Jun 19 2007, 09:27 PM
Comment #1

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Money can buy happiness if there is enough of it, and that is consistent with the above study that suggests an extra $320,000/yr can offset the lack of social relationships.

I'd be interested to see what their control group for happiness is and how they figured out the averages. At a certain point, I'm sure there are some diminishing marginal returns on earning power. I have a hard time believing that a person with no friends/social relationships that is making $10,320,000/year will be just as happy as someone with a strong social network that is earning $10,000,000/yr.

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post Jun 20 2007, 11:07 AM
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The study seems very vague to me. They arbitrarily assign monetary values to the vague "social relationships" as well as a dollar value on income then try to correlate that with a study group that isn't described too much in the press blurb.

The conclusion that Europeans are somehow "happier" than Americans over the last 30 years is highly suspect. Which group of Europeans in comparison to which Americans?? How many Britons, Germans, Spaniards, were in that group(the least of the "happy" crowd")" and how many were from say Denmark or Ireland(happy folks). Incidentally, Italians(where the study was done) ranked the lowest of all European countries in terms of general "happiness."

I'd like to see the entire study and not just the press blurbs blathered all over the place by the American media when this study got reported the other day.
There have been several trends in American lifestyles in the last 30 years that heavily de-emphasize "social communities" (much more commuting, suburban boom,Internet, cell phones, cable/satellite) by reasons of preference/choice that aren't entirely(or some hardly at all) based upon income.

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