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What makes people happy now is different to 80 years ago, but not THAT different

We all just want to be secure, really.

Image: Shutterstock/gulserinak1955

HAPPINESS HAS CHANGED in the last 80 years, but not by a whole lot.

That is the conclusion of the psychologist Sandie McHugh from the University of Bolton who has recreated a famous study of happiness conducted in Bolton in 1938.

In 1938, an ad was placed in the Bolton Evening News asking readers “what is happiness?”. A total of 226 letters were sent in reply and indexed by rating the importance of ten factors ranging from beauty to more security and religion.

Last year McHugh and Professor Jerome Carson carried out the same experiment, asking questions that were as close to the originals as possible.

The surveys found that in 1938 security, knowledge and religion were seen by participants as being the three most important aspects of happiness. In 2014 security was still in the top three, but good humour and leisure were in first and second places.

Religion has gone from the top three to being just tenth.

Here’s what some of those surveyed said:

Enough money to meet everyday needs and a little for pleasure. (1938)
Knowing that my rent is paid on time and I can afford to eat healthily. (2014)
I would like a little home, not many possessions … congenial and satisfying companionship, the availability of good music and books. (1938)
Engaging in my hobbies, spending time that is free of worry … Simple things like enjoying a nice meal or receiving care and affection. (2014)
When I come home from the pit and see my kiddies and wife, I am happy. (1938)
Simple things like going out for a walk…….you don’t need tons of material things to be happy, you just have to be happy in the place you live and with the people around you. (2014)

Both the 1938 and 2014 found that the same number of people, 40%, believed luck was important to happiness. In 2014, 77% answered “No” to the question “Do you think your happiness is directly linked to material possessions and wealth?.” Although security had been highly rated in 1938, wealth by itself was not.

Sandie McHugh said: “The overall impression from the correspondence in 1938 is that happiness factors were rooted in everyday lives at home and within the community. In 2014 many comments value family and friends, with good humour and leisure time also ranked highly.”

Read: This video will show you how to live a happier life in 81 seconds

Read: Ireland is happier than the UK, Germany and France, but not as happy as the USA, Canada and Switzerland

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