Skip to content

Health & Balance

Key to Happiness Lies in Choices You Make

Study Shows People Who Make Family a Priority Are Happier Than Those Seeking Material Success
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 4, 2010 -- A new study suggests the key to long-term happiness may lie not only in your genes, but also in the choices you make in life.

Researchers say the findings contradict the popular notion that life satisfaction is largely determined by a person's genes, marital status, or personality.

Instead, researchers found choices relating to one's partner, the balance between work and leisure time, participation in social activities, and healthy lifestyle are key factors in determining life satisfaction.

"Life goals and choices have as much or more impact on life satisfaction than variables routinely described as important in previous research, including extroversion and being married or partnered," write researcher Bruce Headey of Melbourne University, in Australia, and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For example, researchers found placing a high priority on family and altruistic goals, church attendance, participation in social events, and regular exercise were all equally or more important than being extroverted in affecting happiness.

The findings are based on data collected from a 25-year study of German households that included annual surveys of more than 60,000 participants from 1984 to 2008.

Family Matters More Than Money

Overall, the study showed people who prioritize family goals are happier than those who prioritize career and material success.

Although previous research has suggested being in a relationship is a key factor in determining life satisfaction, researchers found other lifestyle choices also played a major role.

"For both men and women, doing fewer paid hours of work than they want apparently has close to the same impact on life satisfaction as not being in a relationship," write the researchers. "For women, being obese actually reduces life satisfaction more than not having a partner."

In addition, the study showed there was no association between partner similarity and life satisfaction.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
 
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
 
jet plane landing at sunset
Slideshow
poinsettias
Quiz
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Slideshow
 
Woman worn out on couch
Article
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
Article
laughing family
Quiz