Are Modern People Happier than People Who Lived in the Past?

Zhou Zheng

PureInsight | May 23, 2006

[] Society has
been changing very rapidly. Let's not compare now with several hundreds
of years ago.  Let's just compare today with decades ago or even a
dozen years ago, because there are so many changes in all aspects of
daily life. However, do we really live more happily than people who
lived in the past? The BBC News' website published an article
discussing this subject on May 2, 2006.

According to the article, today's British people don't feel as happy as
those who lived in the 1950s, even though we have three times more
wealth than people had at that time. According to a GfK NOP survey, 52%
of the people in 1957 indicated that their lives were "very happy."
Today only 36% of the people have the same feeling. In America, similar
research has revealed the same result.

This means that the increase in wealth doesn't bring happiness to
people. No matter whether it is in America or in UK, the conclusion is
the same – during the last 25 years of the 20th century, people's
satisfaction with life has gradually decreased. In the early 1970s, 34%
of the British people felt that their lives were "very happy." By the
late 1990s, the number was down to 30%. Maybe the change is not that
obvious. But it does show a general trend.

Looking from this angle, wealth doesn't necessarily bring people
happiness. Would people rather be "happier" or be "wealthier?" The
research showed that 81% of people choose to be "happier," while only
13% favor "wealthier."

How about the relationships among people?

Surveys indicate that 43% of the people think that people today are not
as friendly as ten years ago, while only 22% of the people have the
opposite opinion.

Then what factors determine whether one feels happy or not?

Forty-eight percent of people consider their relationships with others
to be the most significant factor to determine whether they are happy
or not, while 24% of people think that being healthy is the biggest
factor for happiness.

Peaceful mind

When research subjects were asked to describe, using their own words,
what happiness means to them, most people answered that family and
friends are the most important. Unexpectedly the second most popular
answer is contentment and inner peace. Clearly many people want to be
released from the mental stress and the fast pace of our modern life.

True self

Interestingly, investigators asked people if there were a legal
medicine that could make people happy and had no side effects, would
they be willing to try it. Seventy-two percent of people who responded
said "No," while only 26% said "Yes." It appears that most people want
to lead real lives.

In the noisy dusty world, what is your opinion on happiness?

If you could choose, what kind of life do you want to have and how do you want to deal with other people?


Britain's happiness in decline

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