Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Evidence-Based Happiness

"All of us desire to be happy. The Prophet Joseph Smith captured our true feelings when he declared: 'Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.' 1" Thomas S. Monson, “Happiness—The Universal Quest,” Ensign, Oct 1993, 2

This post explores the academic subject of happiness. Below I juxtapose an LDS/Plan of Happiness perspective against my research on the scholarly consensus about happiness.

First off, I address the issue of definitions.

Second, I paint the picture of the LDS perspective on happiness.

Third, I will paint the scholars' picture.

Last, I discuss and analyze happiness.

1.  Definitions
For a more detailed (and I would say, relevant) study of the various metrics and constructs of happiness, see Elder Faust's talk- Our Search for Happiness, the first paragraph of wikipedia's article on happiness, and happiness economics: "Given its very nature, reported happiness is subjective.[9] It is difficult to compare one person’s happiness with another.[10] It can be especially difficult to compare happiness across cultures.[10] However, happiness economists believe they have solved this comparison problem. Cross-sections of large data samples across nations and time demonstrate consistent patterns in the determinates of happiness.[10]
In my words: As you might imagine, there aren't any happiness thermometers on the market.  On the other hand, there are numerous statistical means that can reduce or increase confidence in the fidelity of an instrument such as a survey. Before you look at the data below, I suggest you take a stance on what construction(s) of happiness you'll accept.  That way, you'll avoid the hypocritical "this research finding matches my expectations, it's great.  This research finding contradicts my expectations- hey, what's your definition of happiness, anyway?"  This is similar to the No-True Scotsman Move

"Someone says: 'No Scotsman would beat his wife to a shapeless pulp
with a blunt instrument'. He is confronted with a falsifying instance:
'Mr. Angus McSporran did just that'. Instead of withdrawing, or at
least qualifying, the too rash original claim our patriot insists: Well,
no true Scotsman would do such a thing!'
What seems to be a statement of fact (an empirical claim) is made
impervious to counter-examples by adapting the meaning of the
words so that the statement becomes true by definition and empty
of any empirical content."

Reasonable folks disagree as to defining and measuring happiness, and that's fine.  For me, when I say "happiness," I mean the commonly understood meaning of the word.  Optimus interpres rerum est usus- "the best interpreter of things is usage."

2.  LDS Perspective

I compose a 20-item list of significant interrelated statements which, together, build a fair construction of the LDS perspective on happiness.

A- President Kimball: “When a husband and wife go together frequently to the holy temple, kneel in prayer together in their home with their family, go hand in hand to their religious meetings, keep their lives wholly chaste, mentally and physically, … and both are working together for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God, then happiness is at its pinnacle” (Marriage and Divorce, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976, p. 24).
B- Monson: "happiness comes from living the way the Lord wants you to live and from service to God and others."  April 2010 conference

Elder Faust's talk, Our Search for Happiness,
C- instant and unrestrained gratification of all our desires would be the shortest and most direct route to unhappiness
D- both happiness and unhappiness are much of our own making
E- (quoting McKay) You may get that transitory pleasure, yes, but you cannot find joy, you cannot find happiness. Happiness is found only along that well beaten track, narrow as it is, though straight, which leads to life eternal.
F- the path to true and lasting happiness is, repeating the Prophet Joseph Smith’s words, “virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God"
G- The odyssey to happiness ... is made on stepping-stones of selflessness, wisdom, contentment, and faith. The enemies of progress and fulfillment are such things as self-doubt, a poor self-image, self-pity, bitterness, and despair. By substituting simple faith and humility for these enemies, we can move rapidly in our search for happiness.
H-  The assurance of supreme happiness, the certainty of a successful life here and of exaltation and eternal life hereafter, come to those who plan to live their lives in complete harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ—and then consistently follow the course they have set.
I- Selfish pride and happiness don’t go together.
J-In summation, our search for happiness largely depends on the degree of righteousness we attain, the degree of selflessness we acquire, the amount and quality of service we render, and the inner peace that we enjoy. We also have some external sources of happiness, including those loved ones and friends whose smiles and regard mean so much to us.

 > Uchtdorf (Happiness Your Heritage):
K- Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment.
L-  As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our
own lives and our own happiness.
M- "President Lorenzo Snow expressed a similar thought: 'When you find yourselves a little
gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him
and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord
bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit
of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated.'"
N- In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of
prayers we answer may be of even greater importance.

> Thomas S. Monson, “Hallmarks of a Happy Home,” Ensign, Oct 2001, 2–8
O- Happiness is found at home.
P- "Hallmarks of a Happy Home.” They consist of:
1. A pattern of prayer.
2. A library of learning.
3. A legacy of love.
4. A treasury of testimony.

> Thomas S. Monson, “Happiness—The Universal Quest,” Ensign, Oct 1993, 2
Q- the path of virtue - don’t have a guilty conscience
R- faithfulness to covenants
S- shed any thought of failure
T- keep all the commandments

An empirical piece on LDS happiness:

Now if happiness is most likely to come from living the Restored Gospel, it's not unreasonable to conclude that one must know that gospel in order to really live it.  Thus, it also doesn't seem unreasonable to presume that, ceteris paribus,  the countries with the highest percent LDS populations would be the happiest.  That would look something like:
1. Tonga32.0%
2. Samoa25.0
3. American Samoa25.0
4. Niue15.0
5. Kiribati6.0
6. Tahiti6.0
7. Cook Islands5.0
8. Marshall Islands4.0
9. Chile2.5
10. Palau2.0
11. USA1.9
12. Uruguay1.8
13. New Zealand1.5
14. Guatemala1.3
15. Honduras1.2
16. Bolivia1.1
17. Ecuador1.1
18. Peru1.1
19. Belize1.1

Now, don't peek.  What countries to you think top the ten happiest list?  By the way, before you look at the bottom and potentially get your panties in a wad, as suggested earlier it may be wise to first make peace with questions you have about the perpetually relevant scientific question of how the data were obtained.  Scroll to the bottom once you've made your guess. 

3. Scholar's Picture

Now for what empirical research has to say about happiness.  First off, I emphasize how much research there is out there on happiness!

>An entire journal: Journal of happiness studies: an interdisciplinary forum on subjective well-being, International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS), quarterly since 2000, also online

The World Database of Happiness: "continuous register of scientific research on subjective appreciation of life"

Second, I compose a 25-item list of significant interrelated statements which, together, build a fair construction of the scholarly perspective on happiness.

From Arthur Brook's research and regression analysis as revealed in Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America- and How We Can Get More of It and Richard Layard's Happiness: Lessons From a New Science, we learn these trends:
A- levels of happiness in America have remained fairly constant in recent decades, though American wealth has increased
B- Money only has intrinsic value when people are so poor they struggle to provide for their basic needs
C- The richer people in country A are happier that poorer people in country A.  Brooks says, "what the data tell us is that richer people are happier than poorer people because their relative prosperity makes them feel successful."  Thus, I conclude that there is an absolute and a relative component to the effects on happiness of income.
D- "those who believe there is opportunity to advance through hard work are happier than those who do not."  "although it’s true that America has a gap between the rich and poor that’s larger than many developed countries, the fact that more Americans see room for advancement means we’re happier than many European countries."
E- Political extremists, Republicans, the married, and the religious are the happiest people in America.  Brooks hypothesizes about the religious people being happier: "religious people are happier because they lack the moral freedom and choice of secularists... an overload of options means it’s difficult to make moral choices and feel confident in them. It’s much easier to live with simple rules than make difficult ethical decisions."  "too many moral choices leave us insecure and searching, unable to distinguish right from wrong, and thus miserable."  (See also Barry's The Paradox of Choice video: "the secret to happiness is low expectations... settling isn't always such a bad thing."  Fascinating, illustration-laden 20 minute vid. Also, Dan Gilbert's Why Are We Happy video: "freedom of choice is the enemy of synthetic happiness, and the friend of natural happiness."  "One year after the event, the lottery winner and the paraplegic are equally happy.")  It looks like I may have excerpted myself right out of happiness by delving into grays and ethical decision making, which delve is abundantly evidenced in this blog.  I would say that I've observed a connection between the timing of my net happiness decrease of the last year and engaging hard thinking about ethical decision making.  F-  Giving charitably increases happiness

From wikipedia's happiness economics article (Cross-sections of large data samples across nations and time demonstrate consistent patterns in the determinates of happiness[10]), I identify significant correlates of happiness:
G- Money correlates with happiness, but the rate diminishes with more money.[11][10][12] One study, when corrected for social status, showed no correlation between income and happiness.
H- The amount of spare time people have (positive)
I-  People's control over how much spare time they have (positive)
J-  Feeling in control of one's own life (positive)
K-  Losing one's job (negative)
L- Children (negative, at least until they leave for college)
M-  Marriage (positive)
N-  Democracy and federalism (positive)
O-  Higher economic freedom (positive)

From wikipedia's happiness article I identify additional research findings:

P-  50% of one's happiness depends on one's genes... about 10% to 15% is a result of various measurable life circumstances variables, such as socioeconomic status, marital status, health, income, sex[6] and others. The remaining 40% is a combination of unknown factors and the results of actions that individuals deliberately engage in to become happier.
Q- Exercise increases momentary happiness significantly
R- Human relationships are a high correlate affecting the contagiousness of happiness: "Happiness tended to spread through close relationships like friends, siblings, spouses, and next-door neighbors... happiness spread more consistently than unhappiness through the network. Moreover, the structure of the social network appeared to have an impact on happiness, as people who were very central (with many friends and friends of friends) were significantly more likely to be happy than those on the periphery of the network. Overall, the results suggest that happiness might spread through a population like a virus."
S - older Americans are generally happier than younger adults
T- happiness is also correlated with the ability to "rationalize or explain" social and economic inequalities

Research findings about religion and happiness:
U- There is now extensive research suggesting that religious people are happier and less stressed.[19][20] It is not clear, however, whether this is because of the social contact and support that result from religious activities, the greater likelihood of behaviors related to good health (such as less substance abuse), indirect forms of psychological and social activity such as optimism and volunteering, psychological factors such as "reason for being," learned coping strategies that enhance one's ability to deal with stress, or some combination of these and/or other factors.[21][22][23][24][25]
V- spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being "very happy" than the least religiously committed people.
W- high religiousness predicts a lower risk of depression and drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts, and more reports of satisfaction with sex life and a sense of well-being

X- Conditions don't seem to significantly affect happiness: "The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness despite changes in fortune or the achievement of major goals. As a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness."  "Humans rapidly adapt to their current situation, becoming habituated to the good or the bad. We are more sensitive to our relative status..." (emphasis added).

Y- Ironically, direct attempts to be happy will likely fail: "we fail to attain pleasures if we deliberately seek them. This has been described variously, by many:
"But I now thought that this end [one's happiness] was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness[....] Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness along the way[....] Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so." [1]
"Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you'll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.""

 4. Discuss and Analyze

Before doing this research I had a simple view of happiness.  Happiness = having expectations met.  You can meet the expectation or lower it to attain happiness. 

Another equation might be: Happiness = experience - expectation.  In other words, your experience in the moment minus your expectation going into that moment determines your satisfaction level.  Picture a girl on a date- she's not sure whether dinner will be included.  If she expects nothing and figures she'll make herself something when she gets home, the hamburger her date then gets her makes her pretty happy.  If she expects to go to a sit-down restaurant and get a full meal, and what's with this guy anyway, doesn't he know that she deserves to be treated better via spending big money on her, then the hamburger he gets her will result in a degree of dissatisfaction. 

As I pondered this post, my view of happiness changed to include an "eat, drink, and be happy," authentic construction - i.e., happiness is achieved by having basic needs met, being your true self, and having that authentic self accepted by others.

At the moment, since I'm trying to live the commandments rather than be authentic, and since my nature is not yet fully aligned with loving holiness, I'm a bit of an unhappy apple.  I have this faith that if I sludge through years of unhappiness now resulting from suppressed authenticity, as long as that suppression derives from my good-faith attempt to live the gospel, God will more than compensate me in the end ("if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness").  Then again, my acceptance of Christ seems to be a much more proximate factor of God's compensation than my lifetime %commandments kept: commandments known ratio.  Perhaps, then, I can emphasize the acceptance of Christ piece and still indulge my dream/crave to be authentic!  But unless my desires and disposition are radically changed, I know from past experience I'll quickly be back to the sinning lifestyle.  Such a plan amounts to justifying sin, which has got to be the most wrong-headed approach out there.  Then again, we have to sin so we'll be broken so we'll go to Christ who, in fixing us, makes us more than we were as innocents. Hmmm.

I have often felt genuinely miserable while striving to obey the commandments with the stress of constant awareness that in said attempt 1) I fail and 2) God's angels are taking careful notes so that my condemnation later can be fully documented.  I once noted to a steady girlfriend a similar misery I often feel- how talking with her and not dating other girls quickly transitioned from something I wanted to do into something I did because I felt I should, which transition resulted in a happiness nosedive for me even thought the conduct remained constant.  For a person who has chosen and trained himself to be very dutiful ("Do you duty that is best, leave unto the Lord the rest-" President Monson), my own whims and desires from minute to minute and hour to hour are almost wholly irrelevant to the choices I make.  I pursue my task list and worthy goals with rabid intention, feeling that if I take control of my life and conform it to the standards and values the Lord has set, I will be happy.  Despite my strenuous efforts, the result has instead been stress and a wistful envy of the go-with-the-flow, more indulgent types.  It has been a while since I've been deeply in touch with my authentic self because, with good reason, I don't trust it.  My conduct I fully control- my whims and emotions and desires (a part of my authentic self) I do not.  I am angry to think that I'm expected to choose a spouse when I am so removed from my own desires that I no longer know what I authentically want (including in a partner)- I only know what I think the Lord expects of me and what I choose. 

When in a relationship I perceive the expectation of exclusivity or frequency of interaction, I meet those expectations- but it's overwhelming because I choose to (based on the motivation to do my duty) rather than because I want to.  Whether I want to or not is largely if not entirely irrelevant, as all conduct is moral conduct (since all behavior has consequences) and wants are not the best available basis for decision making.  This misery made no sense to my girlfriend, and her response indicated that her moral guide was "do what makes you happy."  This painfully reasonable utilitarian justification reminded me of Elder Christofferson's talk about Moral Discipline: "An incredulous female friend asked a young adult woman, committed to living the law of chastity, how it was possible that she had never “slept with anybody.” “Don’t you want to?” the friend asked. The young woman thought: “The question intrigued me, because it was so utterly beside the point. . . . Mere wanting is hardly a proper guide for moral conduct.”7

On the other hand, President Joseph F. Smith wrote: "It has always been a cardinal teaching with the Latter-day Saints, that a religion which has not the power to save people temporally and make them prosperous and happy here, cannot be depended upon to save them spiritually, to exalt them in the life to come."1  Similarly many ethicists, like my ex-girlfriend, argue "for how humans should behave, either individually or collectively, based on the resulting happiness of such behavior. Utilitarians, such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, advocated the greatest happiness principle as a guide for ethical behavior."  I find the "maximize happiness" principle attractive as well, except that for me that would mean immediately starting full-scale philandering, and I can't help but think that on balance over the next 10 millenia that path would bring me less net happiness than refraining.  Then again, the Atonement alters the next 10 millenia net happiness calculus significantly - but in which direction and when and how much are difficult to ascertain.  Alas- though I was a math major once, I find all this hedonic calculus overly difficult.

Some would counter my experience of frequent misery by saying, "but if you understood the atonement, you wouldn't feel that way."  That is likely true, but who understands the atonement, not fully, but even significantly? Who draws upon the atonement at even a substantial fraction of that to which they are privileged? If the common man isn't smart/faithful enough to access the main benefits of the Atonement in this life, then the predominance of benefits will only accrue after mortality. The promise of eternal felicity is not a hollow one by any means, yet it seems not unreasonable, if happiness is the design and aim of our existence, to enjoy hefty portions of it before we die.  One might further presume that gospel embracers would enjoy heftier portions than similarly situated others that either 1) haven't heard or 2) refused the gospel path.
My point is, the pursuit of earthly happiness and the pursuit of exaltation are not synoymous.  Not only that, but often the two pursuits are exclusive (see also my comments on marriage). I conclude that the disciple must be willing to exchange both earthly happiness and its direct pursuit for her commitment to the gospel. She may achieve happiness collaterally, but there is no guarantee of it- and in fact, her earthly happiness levels may be less than if she pursued happiness absent a gospel-harmonized lifestyle (for instance, by complying with the research-based determinants/positive correlates of happiness).

At one point I considered titling this post, "Why You Should Stop Preaching the Gospel," provided the arguments add up to LDS folks being less happy on average than non-LDS folks.  Now, I don't really think you should stop preaching the gospel. In fact, I really a lot think that you should share testimony of what God has revealed to you through the Spirit and preach His gospel as found in 3 Nephi 27: 13-21. Though I conclude at the margin that preaching the gospel is appropriate, I do make two arguments against it.

We know that preaching the gospel in the spirit world is met with more success generally than on this side of the veil: "I believe, strongly too, that when the Gospel is preached to the spirits in prison, the success attending that preaching will be far greater than that attending the preaching of our Elders in this life. I believe there will be very few indeed of those spirits who will not gladly receive the Gospel when it is carried to them. The circumstances there will be a thousand times more favorable... I believe there will be very few who will not receive the truth." - Lorenzo Snow
-We also know that God's work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39)- thus, He seeks to maximize human salvation, which outcome necessitates individual acceptance of Christ, receipt of authorized ordinances, and obedience/conformity to a gospel lifestyle sufficient to produce/merit a nature change. 
-Last, we know that "All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, and being administered unto by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter, before they can be finally judged." -Joseph Smith

It makes sense that everyone should have an opportunity to receive the gospel before being judged on that basis.  Does a mortal opportunity exclude a later post-mortal one?  However, what qualifies as an opportunity?  Must everyone have the same level of opportunity?  Will all have a certain level of opportunity, but it's okay for some to have more than the minimum threshold?  It seems to me that opportunity to hear/receive the gospel is a spectrum, rather than a binary classification.  On one end is the individual, raised in a strong LDS home, carefully indoctrinated in childhood, socialized to serve a mission, etc.  On the other end is someone who was born and died without ever as much as hearing the name of Jesus Christ, but if he/she had traveled more in his/her lifetime would have interacted with a culture exposed to the revealed gospel of Jesus Christ. In between are countless shades of opportunity: the spoken word of the Father piercing your heart, a persuasive talk with a converted friend, missionaries knocking on your door or walking in front of your house, an LDS ad on TV advertising media, a member of the church in your family, attending one or several LDS meetings, etc.  Also, must one be exposed to the restored gospel?  Is knowing some basics about Christ enough to "count" as your opportunity? Mosiah 3:
  20 And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the aknowledge of a bSavior shall spread throughout cevery nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

  21 And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found ablameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent.
Joseph Smith taught:

“I will suppose a case which is not extraordinary: Two men, who have been equally wicked, who have neglected religion, are both of them taken sick at the same time; one of them has the good fortune to be visited by a praying man, and he gets converted a few minutes before he dies; the other sends for three different praying men, a tailor, a shoemaker, and a tinman; the tinman has a handle to solder to a pan, the tailor has a button-hole to work on some coat that he needed in a hurry, and the shoemaker has a patch to put on somebody’s boot; they none of them can go in time, the man dies, and goes to hell: one of these is exalted to Abraham’s bosom, he sits down in the presence of God and enjoys eternal, uninterrupted happiness, while the other, equally as good as he, sinks to eternal damnation, irretrievable misery and hopeless despair, because a man had a boot to mend, the button-hole of a coat to work, or a handle to solder on to a saucepan.
“The plans of Jehovah are not so unjust, the statements of holy writ so [illusory], nor the plan of salvation for the human family so incompatible with common sense; at such proceedings God would frown with indignance, angels would hide their heads in shame, and every virtuous, intelligent man would recoil.
“If human laws award to each man his deserts, and punish all delinquents according to their several crimes, surely the Lord will not be more cruel than man, for He is a wise legislator, and His laws are more equitable, His enactments more just, and His decisions more perfect than those of man; and as man judges his fellow man by law, and punishes him according to the penalty of the law, so does God of heaven judge ‘according to the deeds done in the body.’ [See Alma 5:15.] To say that the heathens would be damned because they did not believe the Gospel would be preposterous, and to say that the Jews would all be damned that do not believe in Jesus would be equally absurd; for ‘how can they believe on him of whom they have not heard, and how can they hear without a preacher, and how can he preach except he be sent’ [see Romans 10:14–15]; consequently neither Jew nor heathen can be culpable for rejecting the conflicting opinions of sectarianism, nor for rejecting any testimony but that which is sent of God, for as the preacher cannot preach except he be sent, so the hearer cannot believe [except] he hear a ‘sent’ preacher, and cannot be condemned for what he has not heard, and being without law, will have to be judged without law.”10

Though helpful, this quote requires a 'sent' preacher, which might apply to LDS missionaries and not to preachers of any other faith, presuming God does not send preachers in sectarian (non-LDS) religions, which may be the case but seems intuitively unlikely.  Therefore, one must still ascertain what it means to A) "hear" a preacher and B) who exactly is "sent."  Thus, what counts as opportunity is tough to discern. 

By the way, I hope the relevance of this line of thought is clear.  This subject fails to qualify as a "not necessary to your salvation" doctrine- though if it does, then perhaps we wouldn't have valuable D&C section 138, which was received because a man pondered these very topics. 

What is the church culture miserifies more than the gospel happifies?  If so, then because the average person accesses the Restored gospel via the church, including its culture, that person is likely to experience net miserification.  It seems to me likely that on average lifestyles are probably more miserable outside the gospel, but for many, certain denial of strong desires, opportunity costs, shame, self pressures and condemnations are less likely outside the gospel. If, on average, both those who do and do not heed the gospel message are, on average, less happy during their lives than they would likely be otherwise (as measured by similar others), then it would seem from a utilitarian perspective one would be ethically obligated to refrain from preaching the gospel.  There are indications that this less happy state is not the case on average, at least for the apparent heeders of the message (see Utah, Happiness, and Mormons, or the New York Times piece about Utah rating relatively high on a well-being index). 

Further Unorganized Pieces:

Daniel Kahnenen's germane TED talk on the important distinction between experiential vs. memorial happiness. 

One rebuttal to the finding of no correlation between the top ten %LDS and top ten happiest status is that people suck at living the gospel- i.e. if they really followed the gospel then the %LDS countries would be the happiest.  Again, the key question is how happy would they be but for the gospel?  If more than half of them fail and are thus worse off than if they never heard, and those who are happier than they would be but for the gospel are only marginally so, then if likelihood of net lifetime happiness is your objective, trying to live the restored gospel is on average a poor bet.

Notably, faithful LDS homosexually oriented folks don't even have a shot at the LDS-perspective "pinnacle of happiness" in mortality, if they follow the church-advised path of celibacy.  "When a husband and wife go together frequently to the holy temple, kneel in prayer together in their home with their family, go hand in hand to their religious meetings, keep their lives wholly chaste, mentally and physically, … and both are working together for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God, then happiness is at its pinnacle.”

Are homosexually oriented people happier than heterosexually oriented folks?  How about homosexually behaving people?  One report indicates that same-sex couples are happier than opposite-gender couples:
Dev Psychol. 2008 Jan;44(1):102-16.  Three-year follow-up of same-sex couples who had civil unions in Vermont, same-sex couples not in civil unions, and heterosexual married couples. Balsam KF, Beauchaine TP, Rothblum ED, Solomon SE. Department of Psychology, University of Washington, USA.
Some other sources might resolve the question: 1) Vanderlaan, D., & Vasey, P.. (2008). Mate Retention Behavior of Men and Women in Heterosexual and Homosexual Relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37(4), 572-85. Retrieved July 29, 2010, from ProQuest Central. (Document ID: 1500875451); 2) Cloud, J.. (2008, February). Are Gay Relationships Different? Time, 171(5), 74-76. Retrieved July 29, 2010, from ProQuest Central. (Document ID: 1428380771); 3) Roisman, G., Clausell, E., Holland, A., Fortuna, K., & Elieff, C.. (2008). Adult Romantic Relationships as Contexts of Human Development: A Multimethod Comparison of Same-Sex Couples With Opposite-Sex Dating, Engaged, and Married Dyads. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 91. Retrieved July 29, 2010, from ProQuest Central. (Document ID: 1427679611); 4) Mally Shechory, & Riva Ziv. (2007). Relationships between Gender Role Attitudes, Role Division, and Perception of Equity among Heterosexual, Gay and Lesbian Couples. Sex Roles, 56(9-10), 629-638. Retrieved July 29, 2010, from ProQuest Central. (Document ID: 1293023931).

Due to a TED talk I heard about happiness, I think LDS members are more likely to be happy in less-developed or authoritarian countries than in affluent, option-rich Western nations, as the LDS religious practice seems more conducive to synthetic than natural happiness.  For more, watch the talk

Here's a relevant term: preference utilitarianism. Under this theory, happiness depends on an infinitely variable basis of individual preference.  Those who are fortunate/lucky enough to have substantial overlap of their preferences with a gospel lifestyle have a fair chance of both happiness and salvation! 

In conclusion I'll admit, I'm bamboozled and often unhappy.  That's a big motivation for this post.  After I juxtaposed the LDS and scholarly perspectives on happiness, my common sense ignored both and pointedly informed me that turning my brain down and making out more would be big helps. 

"How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life."

The top ten happiest countries, according to the 140 country subjective well-being survey, are:

1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. Netherlands
4. Sweden
5. Ireland
6. Canada
7. Switzerland
8. New Zealand
9. Norway
10. Belgium

You might notice that not a single one of the top ten LDS % population countries showed up in the top ten happiest countries.  Only one of the top 19 even cracked the list.  Interestingly, a whopping 5 of the only 9 countries in the world that have legalized same-sex marriage nationwide show up on the list:

South Africa

In a world of about 192 countries, go ask your friendly neighborhood statistician for the p-values on the confluence of these two correlations (%LDS and legalizing same-sex marriage, respectively, on making the top ten happiest countries list).  It's only half-jokingly that I point out, without making a direct argument for causation, that it seems legalizing same-sex marriage is much, much more likely to correlate to top ten happiness than is a greater % of LDSaints in your country.

1 comment:

  1. My buddy's comment, with my responses below:

    Hey Brad. I've read some of your blog recently and find it interesting. I have a question or two about authenticity because I've noticed this come up in a few of your blog posts. (if you've already answered my Q's in another blog post I haven't read, I apologize).
    I was wondering what you mean by your authenticity. In your blog post about happiness you mentioned that you'r presently putting off authenticity in order to obey commandments for the sake of obtaining future happiness. These seems a little odd to me. Do you consider your authenticity to be any thing you ever want to do? Do you consider it a default state of being? An unrestrained state of being that is uninterested in putting off the natural man and wants to constantly sin? If this is the case then I would think that the result of most people seeking pure authenticity would be chaos. People would be getting murdered, aborting fetuses left and right as the result of an inclination toward irresponsibility etc. You get what I’m saying, I assume.

    I feel like a large part of my authenticity is my sick desire to do something right. Though I often have desires to sin and do some pretty messed up stuff, it seems no less true that I authentically want to improve. Of course, I could be mistaken. Where do I draw the line? Honestly it’s difficult to say what desires (for good or ill) I consider authentic and what are not. So I’m wondering what you mean by your authenticity. Do you rule out of your authenticity your goals and motivations and spiritual experiences?

    >Thanks for your response. You pose a great question, raise some strong points, and it all appears genuine. Let me address the authenticity question first.
    1a) The unrestrained state of being may be the most authentic one, but I don't think it would necessarily look like constant indulgence in sin- such a state seems odd to me too. As observed, you desire to do something right- and it seems reasonable to conclude that most people also have a "good" nature in addition to their "natural man," evil/carnal nature. [Additionally, some aspects of our nature are inherently neither good nor evil (e.g. a predilection for collecting baseball cards)]. Thus, neither being fully good nor fully indulgent would be fully authentic, as each lifestyle would compromise the opposite nature. For instance, choosing irresponsibility and murder and abortion could only be done at the expense of one's responsible nature. It seems the only way to be authentic would be to behave in the direction of your "net" nature, and would likely look like a fairly moderate lifestyle mixed with both good and evil. Thus, I would not excerpt goals, motivations, or spiritual experiences from an authentic lifestyle.
    1b) I also note that I think this condition accurately describes many people.
    1c) Last, I observe that we must slay/kill/destroy our authentic selves in order to make it to heaven- we must put off the natural man and become a new creature in Christ.

    2) I agree that determining which desires are authentic and which are not is difficult.

    3) I thought the Elder Wirthlin quote at the end was heartening, but I can see how the post overall might not be uplifting.

    Thanks again for your input and take care,


Search This Blog