* This new Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.
The Latest on Money and Happiness
"Wealth and Happiness across the World: Material Prosperity Predicts Life Evaluation, Whereas Psychosocial Prosperity Predicts Positive Feeling"
Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 99 (1), July 2010, 52-61.
Does money really make people happier? In this study, authors investigated the relationship between happiness and higher income. Results showed that having luxury items, owning things that make life more convenient (e.g., a car, dishwasher, etc.), and being satisfied with your standard of living are linked to higher levels of happiness. However, income was not associated with positive feelings, such as smiling and laughing. Instead, these feelings are associated with the fulfillment of psychological needs, such as access to education, feelings of autonomy, feeling respected, and the ability to count on others in an emergency. The authors conclude that two separate types of prosperity—economic and social/psychological—best predict two different types of well-being. —Anahid Modrek
Why Some Kids Are More Resilient against Depression
"Resilience to Maternal Depression in Young Adulthood"
Pargas, R., et. al. Developmental Psychology, Vol 46 (4), July 2010, 805-814.
This study followed children of mothers with depression, hoping to identify “resilient” children—those who did not develop depression, even though they were at genetic risk for it—and learn more about what helped these children to remain in good psychological health. The researchers found two factors that made these children less likely to develop depression as young adults: having a high IQ and a warm, caring, less controlling mother. —Janelle Caponigro
The Keys to a Good Night’s Sleep
"Psychosocial Predictors of Changing Sleep Patterns in Aging Women: A Multiple Pathway Approach"
Phelan, C.H., et. al. Psychology and Aging, August 2010, advanced online publication, ahead of print..
Researchers have long known that the amount and quality of people’s sleep declines as they get older, and this is particularly true among women. But little has been done to determine what, if anything, causes these declines—until now. This study surveyed more than 100 women, ages 55 or older, over 10 years, having them report on their sleep quality, psychological well-being, psychological distress (such as depression or anxiety), and physical health. The authors found that, overall, higher levels of psychological well-being—including positive interpersonal relationships and greater feelings of autonomy, growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance—correlated with less disrupted sleep, while depression and anxiety were associated with greater difficulty in both falling asleep and returning to sleep once awakened. Though the researchers acknowledge that sleep declines naturally with age, they suggest that these factors play into our ability to have a healthier sleep schedule—which, in turn, carries a variety of health benefits. —Bernie Wong