NEW YORK —
Even happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside, who thinks the U-shaped pattern in people is a statistical mirage, says she can't write off the ape result the same way. "I'm not really sure what it means," she said. "I am finding this very intriguing." Maybe it will spur more thinking about what's going on in both apes and humans, she said.
Oswald is also an author of a second report in the journal that finds new evidence that being happy can help young people earn more money later on. Prior research had also reached that conclusion, but Lyubomirsky and University of Virginia psychology professor Shige Oishi called the new work the best evidence yet.
"Wow," Oishi said in an email. "This is a very strong paper" in its approach.
Researchers drew on data from a huge sample of young Americans who were surveyed repeatedly. They were asked to rate their positive feelings such as happiness and hopefulness at age 16 and again at 18, and their satisfaction with life at 22. Researchers then compared their ratings with their income around age 29. The data came from nearly 15,000 participants at age 16, and at least 11,000 at the latter two ages.
Higher income at age 29 was consistently linked to greater happiness at the earlier ages. The least happy 16-year-olds, for example, went on to average about $10,000 a year less than the happiest. That disparity shrank by about half when the researchers statistically removed the effect of other influences such as ethnicity, health and education.
A happiness effect even appeared between siblings within their own families.
What's going on? Most likely, happiness raises productivity and helps a person work effectively with others, factors that promote success in the workplace, Oswald said. The study found that happier people were more likely to get a college degree and get hired and promoted.