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Most people, if pushed, would tell you that what they want most out of life is happiness. But despite its importance, we really know very little about it. The question of ‘how to be happy’ has been keeping philosophers in business for millenniums!

I’ve researched happiness on-and-off for quite a few years, but this week after listening to an excellent podcast titled “Does Religion Make You Happy?” I was motivated to dive back in. What follows is the results of that research in the form of graphs showing the correlation between happiness and a variety of things.

Take them with a pinch of salt. Each graph is from a different study and all have different sample sizes, are from different years and use different criteria for measuring happiness.

Happiness vs Household Income

happiness vs salary

450,417 surveyed. Average (mean) household income in the UK: $58,822 (£38,547). In the USA: $72,641.

Happiness vs Commuting Time

well-being vs commuting

19,088 individuals surveyed. Average commute to work in the UK: 23.5 minutes. In the USA: 25.4 minutes.

Happiness vs Hours of Sleep Per Night

well-being vs sleep

5.6 million submissions. Average sleep UK: 6:42. In the USA: 6:48.

Happiness vs Age

well-being wellbeing

340,847 surveyed.

Happiness vs Having Children

happiness vs children

Let’s talk parenting TED talk. Couldn’t find the sample size!

Happiness vs Church Attendance

happiness vs religion

329,152 surveyed.


So what do you think? Is the secret to happiness: not having kids, earning $75k dollars, sleeping 9 hours a night, going to church every week, living at your office and being over 75 years old?

Well, I’m pretty sure that’s not it. Let’s be careful not to assume that correlation implies causation.

After all, does ageing really make you any happier? Or is it perhaps that retirement, and the anticipation of retirement, is a hell of a lot better than working and it just happens that most people retire around 55.

So then, what conclusions can I make? I dunno, ask a statistician (any out there?). But I do now have some ‘evidence’ to point to when people complain that I sleep too much.