Does Having More Friends Make You Happier?

I'm a little surprised that pets weren't a category--aren't pets supposed to help you live longer?

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m fascinated by the idea of happiness. What makes us happy? How can we be happier? What’s really important when it comes to personal happiness?

Thus I was rather intrigued to find an article online that listed 10 keys for determining happiness. The article isn’t a checklist of things to do to be happier; it simply outlines 10 qualities that have been proven to be correlated to happiness.

So I took those qualities and created a simple survey on Qualtrics so you and I could determine our happiness quotient. I asked 10 questions and asked people to make on a scale from 1 to 5 how much they agree with each quality. The higher the number, the higher the score. The qualities of happiness:

  1. Ability to let things go.
  2. Perception of Equal Treatment
  3. Large Number of Friends
  4. Level of Active Spirituality
  5. Ability to Imagine the Future
  6. Specific Developed Skills
  7. Control of Your Life
  8. Competitive with Self or Not Competitive (opposed to being comparing yourself to others to determine success)
  9. Good Genes
  10. High Self-Esteem

28 people responded to the survey. With the highest possible score of 50, the happiest person scored a 46 and the least happy person scored a 27. The average score was 38.

What’s interesting to me are patterns within the categories–where do we collectively struggle? Personally, my lowest marks were in ability to let things go and specific developed skills. Overall, the three categories with the lowest average score were:

  • ability to let things go (3.4 average)
  • level of active spirituality (3.4)
  • competitive with self (3.6)

The categories where we’re all doing really well are:

  • perception of equal treatment (4.3)
  • ability to imagine the future (4.4)

So how can we use this knowledge? To a certain extent, we are who we are. You either have good genes or you don’t. You’re either spiritual or you aren’t. But, as category 7 says, we have free will, and if we choose to exert it, we’ll be happier people.

Thanks to everyone who took the survey. It’s still open if you’d like to determine your happiness quotient.

5 thoughts on “Does Having More Friends Make You Happier?”

  1. Fascinating post! I kinda disagree with the friends one. I think quality is more important than quantity in that regard.
    I fully agree with the letting things go theory. It is very hard to do but very liberating when one can pull it off.

    I wonder why health isn’t on there. People with healthy lifestyles have been scientifically proven to be happier…I say this as I light a cigarette and sip hard cider, but y’know…

    Reply
    • I completely with Brook on the quality over quantity part. Can one be a really good friend to 20 people? I personally prefer to have a few friends who I know will get my back and be there for me through anything- people who know everything there is to know about you…the good and the bad.

      Super cute picture Jamey! Awwww!! I like to call it, “Crouching kitty, flying kitten.”

      Reply
    • You have a great point about health. Not sure why that’s not on the list.

      Regarding the number of friendships, here’s what the article had to say about that:

      “Extroverts are happier than introverts and they live longer lives, in part because they can spend time in the company of friends and family or they can spend time alone, according to happiness researcher Ed Diener. Like letting go of grudges and going with the flow, being extroverted and having a wide social circle is a major factor in whether someone considers themselves happy or not, as well as an often-cited reason to explain how some people live to be 100 or older. At any rate, it’s a reason to justify spending a little time at work on social networking sites.”

      I have a hard time with that too. I think extroverts are happier doing extroverted things (like having lots of friendships and participating in big events with lots of people they do and do not know), but conversely, introverts are happier doing introverted things (like having time for themselves and quality time with a few close friends).

      At the same time, if you read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, there’s an interesting section of the book about a town in Italy where the average life expectancy is way higher than the rest of the world. Long story short, the determining factor is the type of large, outgoing, welcoming community that the town fosters. Everyone is incredibly supportive of everyone else. And yes, you can have a few close very supportive friends, but I think it makes a difference when you know that you have a lot of people who care about you.

      Reply
  2. I think a large number of friends can be good, but if the number is too large it can turn into a negative again. I know a couple of people who have so many friends that they barely have time for any one of those friends because they’re spread too thin. I know I don’t feel particularly close or special to them, though I like them. How can you feel special to someone when you’re one of several hundred?

    I have this one friend who has several hundred friends, and I know he often gets depressed because he can’t find a lasting love relationship. One woman he dated is a friend of mine. She said that he was a truly great guy, but that he was unable to prioritize between her needs and the needs of a thousand friends. She married someone who wasn’t so overbooked.

    Reply
    • That’s an interesting point–the idea of having TOO many friends actually hurting your happiness. There’s probably a healthy balance that depends on your level of introvertedness and extrovertedness.

      Reply

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