Our Possessions Do Not Make Us Happy, Sorry iPhone
October 7, 2013

Our Possessions Do Not Make Us Happy, Sorry iPhone

[ Watch the Video: Happiness Comes From People, Not Things ]

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Though helpful, it seems iPhones and other gadgets aren’t capable of making us happy.

A new Swedish study finds that it is people and human relationships that nurture us and make us truly happy. After analyzing articles published in Swedish newspapers in 2010, psychology researcher Danilo Garcia, of University of Gothenburg, says he discovered no link between possessions and happiness. This research is a part of a larger effort to understand how people describe the negative and positive things which happen to them in their lives. It also lends some scientific evidence to the old credo “Money can’t buy happiness.”

This research is now published in the scientific periodical Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

“It's relationships that are most important, not material things, and this is in line with other findings in happiness research,” explains Garcia, a researcher in psychology at the Sahlgrenska Academy's Centre for Ethics, Law and Mental Health. The link between humans and happiness was so strong, even celebrities and sports stars were able to illicit feelings of happiness, even if a person didn’t know them personally.

For the research, Garcia and team studied the news articles, scouring for words that appeared with the Swedish word for happiness. The team analyzed more than one and a half million words in these articles and found words such as “Prince Daniel” or “ Zlatan,” (a Swedish soccer star) were frequently found in close proximity to the word for happiness. Words like “grandmother” or personal pronouns like “us,” “you,” “me,” and “we” were also closely associated with happiness. Conversely, the names of some of the hottest gadgets and trends in technology were rarely associated with happiness. Specifically, words like “iPhone” and “Google” were almost never associated with being happy.

“This doesn't mean that material things make you unhappy, just that they don't seem to come up in the same context as the word for happiness,” explained Garcia in a press statement.

Happiness, or any emotion for that matter, can be quite difficult to quantify. Therefore Garcia and his team feel analyzing newspaper articles is a good start to understand what makes people happy and why. Using the information and practices they took from this study, researchers will now set out to understand how people describe certain life events, such as having a child or losing a job.

“Just as the Beatles sang, most people understand that money can't buy you happiness or love,” said Garcia. “But even if we as individuals can understand the importance of close and warm relationships on a social level, it isn't certain that everyone is aware that such relationships are actually necessary for our own personal happiness.”

Another research organization also set out to define happiness recently in a study released in a preamble to the United Nations General Assembly. The UN contracted the on-going study two years ago to understand the intangible effects their policies have on real people.

According to the 2013 World Happiness Report, people all over the world are generally happier than they were one year ago. Of the 156 countries observed in the report, 60 were listed as feeling happier than last year; 41 countries came in as less happy and 29 had no change over last year.