According to a new study led by Iris B. Mauss of the University of Denver, people who put a heavy value on happiness are lonelier than those who don’t. Until now, most research suggested that happiness has tremendous benefits on overall quality of life. “Indeed, growing evidence suggests that happy people have more friends, more occupational success, and live longer and healthier lives than do less-happy people,” said Mauss. “So what could be wrong with wanting to be happy?” She pointed out that people who place significant emphasis on achieving happiness may forget to interact with those closest to them, causing them to feel lonely. She said, “For example, people who strive for high self-esteem often fail to attend to others’ needs, and achievement goals can cause people to disregard others’ feelings. Like people who value self-esteem or success, then, people who value happiness might experience decreased social connection and ultimately loneliness.”
To test her theory, Mauss and her colleagues recruited 320 female participants, ranging in age from 20 to 60. The women completed an online survey that measured various factors, including the value they put on happiness. They were instructed to fill out a diary for two weeks, citing the day’s stressful experiences and their level of loneliness during the experience. They found that the women who valued happiness the most experienced the highest levels of loneliness during the stressor. “These findings are suggestive but not definitive of a causal relationship between valuing happiness and feelings of loneliness.” To confirm their theory, the team conducted a second study on 43 women in which the participants read a valuing happiness article, followed by a romantic film clip. The control group read a neutral article. Again, the researchers discovered that those who read the valuing happiness article reported higher levels of loneliness after viewing the amorous video. The team noted that these results seem to be part of a vicious cycle. They said, “It may be that the desire for happiness decreases happiness and well-being because it evokes loneliness. Indeed, loneliness is one of the most robust negative predictors of happiness and well-being.”
Mauss, I. B., Savino, N. S., Anderson, C. L., Weisbuch, M., Tamir, M., & Laudenslager, M. L. (2011, September 12). The Pursuit of Happiness Can Be Lonely. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025299
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.