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Health and happiness in young Swiss adults

Thomas V. Perneger
Geneva University Hospitals & University of Geneva
Patricia M. Hudelson
Geneva University Hospitals
Patrick A. Bovier
Geneva University Hospitals

Published in 'Quality of Life Research', 13(1), 171-178, February 2004

The object of this study was to explore whether self-reported happiness is associated with mental and physical health among young adults.  A sample of 1257 university students in Geneva, Switzerland took part in the survey.  Most respondents were women and the average age was 26 years.  

Participants were asked how much of the time, during the previous four weeks, did they consider themselves to be a happy person.  Responses were recorded using a 5-point scale:- 'all of the time', 'most of the time', 'some of the time', 'a little of the time', and 'none of the time'.  The questionnaire also included measures of mental and physical health; self-esteem, stress and social support; reports of various life problems; and, socio-demographic information.  Approximately 11% of the respondents reported feeling happy all of the time during the previous 4-week period, 52% reported feeling happy most of the time, 26% felt happy some of the time, 10% rarely felt happy, and 1 % did not feel happy at all.  

The results of this survey indicated that the perception of feeling happy all or most of the time increased progressively with mental health scores, suggesting a positive relationship between happiness and psychological well-being.  In fact, feeling happy was most strongly associated with increasingly better mental health compared to other variables.  In contrast, physical health was not significantly associated with higher levels of self-reported happiness.

Happiness appeared to be higher among Swiss nationals, those who lived with a partner, those who played sports regularly, non-smokers, respondents who reported no unwanted sexual experience, and those without money or housing problems.  Happiness was also positively related to higher self-esteem and to the number of people available to provide social support.  Increased levels of happiness were also related to decreased stress levels.  And feeling happy was associated with feeling loved.

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