Life’s happiness as a U-shaped curve

When you’re a child, you are happy, but you become less so during your teenage years.  Then you get more and more miserable.  But in your 40′s you bottom out.  Then you keep getting happier.  When you are old, you are happier than you ever have been.  Not only that, the older you get, the happier you become.

The level of happiness in your life can be graphed as a U-shaped curve.  That’s the pattern documented in a recent study.  And it seems to apply, with variations, to every culture studied.  With one exception:  Russia, in which happiness keeps going down until the age of 91, which few Russians reach. [Read more...]

The happiest & unhappiest states in the union

Gallup has compiled various statistics about “well-being” (health, work, emotional satisfaction, etc.) and has come up with a ranking of  states according to how happy they are.  The most happy states, according to this study, are North Dakota and South Dakota.  The least happy is West Virginia.  In general, the happiest states are those of the upper midwest, and the least happy are those of the deep south.

Now I grant that such studies are very limited and that happiness is not all it’s cracked up to be.  But let’s use this as an occasion to discuss regional differences.

See the top 10 and the bottom 10 after the jump, and go to the Gallup site for more details.

How would you account for the differences?  Some preliminary observations and questions:  The least happy states are poorer than normal, though the wealthiest states are not necessarily the happiest.  Is there something about rural economies, wide-open spaces, and/or natural beauty (especially mountains) that correlate to happiness?  What about the religious differences  (Lutheran strongholds vs. Baptist strongholds)?  What else?  And maybe someone who lives there can tell us what’s so great about the Dakotas. [Read more...]

Signs of being divorce-proof

Here are five bits of social science research that would indicate a person is unlikely to get a divorce.  The post completely leaves out more important factors, such as not believing in divorce and the role of Christian faith.  Still, the list of factors, while on the shallow side, is interesting and amusing.  (But please, don’t read them after the jump if you are going to beat your spouse over the head with them!) [Read more...]

Churches, sects, denominations, and non-denominations

Sociologist of religion Peter Berger (an ELCA Lutheran) discusses the phenomenon of the Sunday Assembly, which we blogged about yesterday.  He said the fact that atheists too are gathering together following the pattern of religious activities demonstrates the almost universal human need to worship (or the equivalent) and to join together with others who hold common religious or philosophical convictions.

In the course of his discussion, he draws on older sociologists who distinguish between different kinds of religious institutions:  a church (which a person is born into) and a sect (which a person chooses to join).  Such a distinction, it seems to me, grows out of the European state church.  American religion, according to Dr. Berger, has added the concept of the denomination, which a person may be born into or choose freely to join.  Dr. Berger further says that denominations of one sort or another–in the sense of “a community of value, religious or otherwise,” have become inevitable in America, extending even to atheists.

After the jump, read his argument and some questions I have about “non-denominational” churches.  [Read more...]

Pop sociologist embaces Christianity

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of Outliers and The Tipping Point, works of what has been called “pop sociology” that turn social science research into bestselling books of personal and business motivation. His latest book is David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.  In the course of studying underdogs and how they are often victorious, Mr. Gladwell returned to the Christian faith.  He tells why in an interview with Sarah Pulliam Bailey. [Read more...]

Don’t make eye contact

“Look at me when I’m talking to you!” we might say when trying to get through to a child we are trying to discipline.  “He looked me straight in the eye,” we might say of someone trying to sell us something.  “Keep eye contact,” we might remind ourselves in a job interview.  According to the latest research, though, eye contact can actually make it harder to win someone over. [Read more...]


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