In a finding that complicates the picture between money and happiness, researchers have found a connection between beauty and happiness — more beautiful people are generally happier than ordinary-looking people.
Why? Largely because of having more successful spouses, the higher salaries and other economic benefits enjoyed by a person who is more beautiful than average.
Drs. Daniel Hamermesh and Jason Abrevaya, both economists, came to these conclusions by conducting a complex analysis of raw survey data from previously conducted studies in four countries — U.S., Canada, Germany and Britain.
The survey data included the results from two Quality of American Life (QAL) surveys undertaken in 1971 and 1978 as random samples of the U.S. population age 18 and up. These surveys assessed Americans’ level of happiness and well-being.
At the end of the interview in each of these surveys, the interviewer assessed the interviewee’s looks on a five-to-one scale, with 5 being strikingly handsome or beautiful and 1 being homely. Similar survey data from Britain, Canada and Germany were also obtained for a total of 25,000 subjects included in the final data analysis conducted by the economists.
The researchers found that the top 15 percent of people ranked by looks are over 10 percent happier than people ranked in the bottom 10 percent of looks.
This holds true for both men and women and across different cultures.
“Personal beauty raises happiness,” said Hamermesh. “The majority of beauty’s effect on happiness works through its impact on economic outcomes.”
In previous research, Hamermesh has established that better-looking people generally earn more money and marry better-looking and higher-earning spouses than others.
The current study suggests these indirect, economic benefits account for at least half of the additional happiness that good-looking people report. Beauty affects women’s happiness more directly than men’s.
The findings come as some political leaders and economists advocate for countries to begin measuring national happiness alongside their economic productivity. The authors suggest that may not be a worthwhile measurement.
“While there are many good reasons to avoid combining gross domestic product measures with measures of subjective well being,” they write, “our discussion showing the importance of this one, essentially immutable determinant of happiness (beauty) suggests that focusing on creating a happier society may not be fruitful.”
The paper is published on the German-based Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) and is available here (PDF).
Source: University of Texas